When I first became an advisor, a seasoned stockbroker told me “This is the hardest way to make an easy living” and it is even more so for today’s advisors. There is more complexity, more competition in fact we are even competing against complex computer algorithms. Who knew that would happen so quickly. What we do know is the financial services industry is changing and keeping pace requires sustained focus, a level of energy that can only come from a true understanding of your personal underlying values and purposealigned with a viable differentiator.
We have all heard the admonition pursue your passion, but what does that mean and where does one find it? I recently heard an interview with the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson who revealed that he became fascinated with the stars at the age of nine; but this is rare. He is one of the few who was able to align what he valued with a meaningful occupation from an early age. The vast majority of us gravitate to a profession because we think it’s the right thing to do or view it as a path to a secure career never taking the time to develop a deep knowledge of our innate strengths and weaknesses. When was the last time you did a SWOT analysis on yourself? Mindtools is an excellent place to start.
What do you believe in? What are the values that compelled you to become an advisor? The ongoing journey into self-awareness will create the power that forms and supports your differentiator, the spark that separates you from the competition. This is more than finding a niche market for your advisory practice. Anyone can choose from a variety of options but the learning curve is steep and the investment of timeis substantial (see Michael Kitces blogs). An effective differentiator is a unique expression of your specialty, combined with your values and life experiences that manifest in the exclusive elements that comprise your firm’s services. For this reason, take care in discovering what will work for you.
Finding a differentiator,which will create sustainable passion, starts with the inner exploration of your underlying purpose. It’s an outgrowth of your values and life experiences and manifests as a result of knowing yourself. Think of it in terms of this formula:
(♡x Wp) + (♢ x Wp) = ☆
Your self-awareness(♡) influenced by your work process (Wp) is combined with life experiences (♢) refined as well by those very same processes (Wp) within your chosen occupation. That magnification through your work forms and defines your differentiator (☆). The level of your self-awareness will impact the work as will your interpretation of the positive or negative nature of your life experiences. For example, an advisor who values and believes in fairness and justice combined with the experience of a painful divorce may find her differentiator in offering services to mediate the financial and emotional consequences of those going through that same life event.
Passion comes from within and is not dictated by the specific occupation but by your values and self-awareness. After all, the advisor whose differentiator is divorce planning could have become a divorce attorney or mediator and just as effectively expressed her values of justice and fairness through those professional avenues. Passion springs from the alignment of your beliefs, values, and virtues with the approach and specific services that characterize and define your differentiator.
For clients, it’s the passion that attracts them to your firm. People do business with those they like and shared values manifest when advisors understand and display their passion through their differentiated client offerings. Aligning your values with what you do and how you do it creates energy and sustainable passion: the fountainhead for a successful practice.
For more ideas on sustaining passion and success read Passion is a Virtue: Ten Principles for Sustaining Success as an Independent Financial Advisor.