In a fascinating 1996 survey, more than 230 CEOs from some of America’s top companies were asked, “What do you wish someone had told you 20 years ago about how to be successful?” The results were both interesting and amazing; most of these high-powered, jet-setting honchos defined success differently than one might expect. Take a look at the seven keys to success the executives cited, and consider them in light not only of your practice, but of your life. Are you following their advice?
#1: Be Yourself
I can’t tell you how many advisors I have worked with who are trying to be someone they are not in order to please clients and therefore make more money. But think about it: Clients want to work with a caring, trustworthy expert who understands their goals, has empathy for their problems, and helps them get what they want. The most important thing is trust, and trust comes from authenticity. To achieve total success, you must first know your strengths and weaknesses, then work to attract clients who will appreciate your particular strengths. If you are a warm-fuzzy person, work with warm-fuzzy people. If you are a datahead, work with people who will appreciate your quantitative skills.
An advisor who attended one of my workshops complained that he couldn’t talk with clients about his daredevil penchant for extreme sports. “If I told my retired clients, they would think I was way too much of a risk-taker, and wouldn’t want to work with me.”
“You said you work with a lot of retired people,” I said, “but who is your ideal client, the one you most enjoy working with?” Without hesitation, he said, “CEOs.” CEOs, of course, take risks all the time. By not being himself, he made himself attractive to a group he didn’t enjoy working with. By being authentic, he realized, he could be attractive to the very group he most wanted to work with–and he’d probably find people who’d want to go with him when he went bungee-jumping or swimming with the sharks, too.
The lesson here for planners here is: Organize your business and your marketing to attract clients who appreciate you for who you are. It is much less effort and much more fun than trying to be something you are not.
#2: Follow Your Dreams
The executives in the poll said that the second key to their success was following their dreams. They all used their dreams as their inner compass. They then turned their dreams into goals, and their goals into deadlines. I have found that when you get clear on what you want and make a conscious decision to pursue it, the universe conspires to help you accomplish it.
How could you possibly be successful if you didn’t follow your dreams? If you are not yourself and don’t follow your dreams, you may be climbing the ladder of financial success but you will never achieve true success and genuine happiness.
#3: Hug Your Family
Richard Adler is the president of McCann Erickson, a large international ad agency. He says, “I have three pictures on my desk: one of me with my parents, the other two of me with my wife and sons on family vacations. I don’t have a picture of me at the office working late or making a deal. I don’t have a picture of me making a deposit at a bank teller window, flying first-class to Tokyo, or returning a 28% margin to my company. Just the family.”
Many advisors I work with win awards from their firms, but not from their families. They spend all of their time making money and running their businesses. But the deep connections with your family should be the most important focus in your life.
#4: Keep in Touch With Friends
Family may come first, but don’t forget your friends. Friendships are some of the most important relationships in your life. You don’t need a lot of friends, only a handful. A few friends with whom you have deep relationships based on shared interests and values creates a support system for you. If you surround yourself with true friends, they will support you in becoming yourself and following your dreams.