Many people, with the best of intentions, try to build their lives to be impervious to challenges or emergencies in every way. As advisors, we certainly understand why this approach has merit from a financial perspective. But beyond finances, attempting to construct a life that never has to change in reaction to the world usually does not work out.
In fact, this approach is not only often infeasible but also undesirable. Whether personal, professional or societal in nature, life’s challenges provide opportunities for all of us to grow. When we forsake these opportunities, we limit ourselves and our futures. Positioning yourself to move with, not against, the changes that come in your personal and professional life will help you focus more on what matters most and how to hold onto it.
Accepting The Inevitable
“Accepting the inevitable” has an almost exclusively negative connotation in American society.
It sounds like surrender instead of putting up a fight. But none of us can win the fight against change. Instead, when we frame it in terms of accepting the inevitable and then adapting to explore new options, the connotation changes to one that is not negative at all.
Like most other people, my employees and I were unprepared to specifically handle a pandemic in March 2020. However, after 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis, we knew we had to have processes in place to contact all our clients in the event of another emergency. In 2018, we faced another challenge, albeit a positive one: Our client base became too big to schedule in-person meetings with everyone (which can happen to advisors with a wide range of client obligations).
Rather than trying to make the unworkable work anyway, we transitioned to virtual client service that same year.
That shift and our existing emergency plan paid massive dividends when the pandemic started. Not only were we able to reach our clients quickly and easily, but 2020 became one of the best years for referral business in my career. Our readiness to handle whatever came our way let us grab hold of a positive in a very negative time to grow our client base and reinvigorate existing client loyalty.
But not all shifts happen at a grand societal level. My father was recently diagnosed with early dementia from Alzheimer’s disease and moved into a senior living center. Accepting something like this is, of course, extremely difficult. But it also gave me an opportunity to refocus on the essentials in my life: my faith and my family. It also has led me to become even more invested in finding the right solutions for my clients’ lives, through the security and resources granted by our professional services and products.
Accepting change is not just a mindset. Perhaps ironically, you must make proactive changes both professionally and personally to best prepare yourself for the changes that will be outside your control. Actively managing what you can will help you grapple with what you cannot.
One of the most consequential choices I made 20 years ago was to split my time between “focus days” and “buffer days.” All of my client meetings happen on focus days, which helps me stay in the mindset of helping clients solve their problems. But at least two days a week, I have a buffer day without any client meetings at all. This lets me spend an appropriate amount of time on the other parts of my business: managing my employees, taking care of office tasks or preparing for business travel. These days, as you might have expected, became even more important last year when we all needed to transition to working remotely.
Another key step I took was hiring a dedicated scheduler. Before I hired her, we would often schedule client meetings reactively, when clients reached out. This led to an unpredictable overall schedule, which made it harder to set aside time for other aspects of my work. My scheduler now proactively reaches out to clients to schedule meetings, which gives me and my other employees more control over our schedules.
These tools also give me more time for personal matters. This includes spending time with my father, which has taken on even more importance since his Alzheimer’s diagnosis. It also includes new, pandemic-generated hobbies like birdwatching. I picked this up soon after the onset of COVID-19, and it has done wonders for my physical and emotional well-being during the past year.
Life is often defined by the events we see as “interruptions” when they happen. These interruptions, though, bring some of the greatest opportunities we ever come across. Being ready to accept these course changes will let us take those opportunities and grow into better professionals and people.