A wise old pastor I know once said, “Show me a man’s calendar and checkbook register, and I’ll tell you what his priorities are.”

Question: What do you spend time and money on? New possessions? Your staff? Your clients? Do you reinvest commission dollars back into your practice, or do you devour the seeds of next year’s crop on toys? Do you have a purpose other than making money? Are you charitably and community-involved? Have you written a mission statement to which your clients and the public can hold you to account, one that motivates what you and your staff do each day?

Many years ago, I drafted my mission statement. It’s framed and hangs in the lobbies of both our offices for all to read, and it’s on both of our websites. I’ve “put it out there,” alongside an ethics pledge, so that people can measure their experiences with us against our stated mission and tell me if we’re making the grade. It reads in part:

“…In implementing each of these strategies, we place the highest importance on personal and business ethics, scrupulous professionalism, vigilant confidentiality, and the extension of public knowledge on current issues affecting retirees and their heirs.”

My friend Brandon Stuerke has what I consider to be the best “How You Will Experience Us” mission statement in the business. Imagine if all of us worked to have clients experience us this way:

“…To inspire our clients to…experience a real relationship with a financial firm unlike anything they have ever had before; whereby they receive the best, unbiased counsel and unparalleled customer service.”

Life has taught me that people can only pretend to be someone they’re not for a short time, after which the truth comes out and their true self appears. Even Bernie Madoff finally confessed his true self to his sons, as if he wanted to get caught, and pled guilty rather than dispute the fictions he’d perpetrated.

You can’t obscure selfish intention. If all you’re in business for is commission income—don’t state otherwise via a concocted mission statement; just go back to selling and skip the self-examination. If, on the other hand, you have a bigger vision—perhaps you see a finished cathedral even as you’re still digging that ditch—share those aspirations for changing perceptions and changing lives with your target audience. I rescue people’s retirements every day, proudly and without apology—oh, and I happen to earn a comfortable living doing so. 

When you aim past success to significance, you’ll become what you aspire to be. It starts when you write it down.