Back in the Middle Ages, life was simple. There was right and wrong. Some of the Ten Commandments revealed the right; the others, plus “The Seven Deadly Sins,” conveyed the wrong. If you made good choices, you went to Heaven. Bad ones landed you in Dante’s “Inferno.”
Today, life is…well, confusing. For many people, commandments and sin are quaint concepts. Instead, they pursue secular goals such as a big paycheck and social network reach. But, alas, they are lost in moral darkness.
So here’s my solution. Let’s update the “The Seven Deadly Sins” for advisors. “Save” yourself by avoiding these transgressions (and examples) at all costs:
1. Pride. The desire to be more important or attractive than your clients. If you must raise your office chair two feet above your clients, watch out.
2. Avarice. The aggressive pursuit of wealth, stature and power. Don’t succumb to the temptation to trade in your Jag once a quarter.
3. Envy. Being resentful of the good fortune of others. Don’t “unfriend” clients who snare the latest Internet IPO before you do.
4. Wrath. Uncontrolled feelings of hatred and anger. Avoid hacking into the computers of insurance companies who mess up your commission checks.
5. Lust. Inappropriate thoughts or desires. Never expose personal spreadsheets to comely number crunchers via TwitPic or email.
6. Gluttony. Overindulgence in anything to the point of waste. Don’t propose more investment risk in client accounts than you can personally stomach at Sunday dinner.
7. Sloth. Failure to use one’s talents and gifts through laziness and indifference. Never spend more time with your personal trainer than you do with your best client.
So why the lighthearted approach to something as serious as sin? Because humor unveils deep truths. And the truth of the matter is this:
- Being an ethical advisor means embracing the right behaviors and avoiding the wrong ones. Moral relativism has no place in our business.
- Following the right path often involves saying no to ourselves and to those who tempt us. Self-discipline is the only path to integrity.
- Achieving success in this business isn’t about amassing wealth. It’s about helping others–and avoiding dark, hot places.