By Vanessa Bucklin
In track and field, the success of a long jumper depends on several factors: speed, conviction, height. But perhaps most important is the second-to-last, or penultimate, step they take before launching into the actual jump. This step can prepare jumpers for excellent results, or it can dash their hopes.
This lesson I learned in high school track and field has carried over into my professional career. Penultimate steps come in different forms and at unexpected times, but when taken well they set people on the right trajectory for reaching their goals.
Should they learn to recognize these underappreciated moments, advisors can find both more accomplishments and more meaning in their careers.
Penultimate steps come in many forms, from final arrangements for an event to recognizing an unexpected opportunity. They can also come in the form of experiencing disappointment or changing your attitude or outlook. The unifying factor is timing: penultimate steps, whether planned or stumbled upon, are the moments before liftoff, not the liftoff itself.
The biggest penultimate step in my career came at the moment of my career change. After 15 years of work in banking, I had a VP position and a steady paycheck. But I was unsatisfied with the work and wanted to start an insurance agency in my small town of 2,500 people.
I chose to focus on the upsides and opportunities of this shift – like the fact that knowing almost everyone in my town gave me a ready network of prospects – instead of the challenges, like leaving a job that provided reliable income. That simple attitude check set me up for a successful start once I opened my doors, and I qualified for MDRT within my first year of selling insurance.
Keeping An Eye Out
The diversity of penultimate moments can make them difficult to recognize if you aren’t looking for them. Many people in various industries focus only on an envisioned finish line instead of their personal or professional journeys. Aside from making life duller, this outlook also turns life events from steps to evaluate into obstacles to overcome.
If you view everything as a problem to put behind you, you won’t be able to recognize opportunities. It’s therefore important to pay attention to day-to-day changes, victories and challenges to increase your chance of recognizing potentially career-altering inflection points.
Doubt can also impede your understanding of when penultimate moments happen. This can show up as doubt in your personal abilities or doubt in the reasons you have to wake up and go to work. To manage this human, but sometimes unhelpful, emotion, look forward with a secure purpose to your work. Find the reason you want to do the job and drill down on it. Aim to be good at it today, and better tomorrow.
For most people, preparation and practice translate into better long-term results. Sometimes, though, big decisions come when we’re not ready for them. Penultimate steps don’t always happen when we want them to, or when every other item on a checklist is complete. But to find the most success and the most happiness, advisors must be ready to take them when they present themselves.
I did not have all the bases covered when I left my banking career. I was my family’s breadwinner and I had three children under the age of seven at the time, and I did not have a guarantee of success in insurance. But I knew in my heart of hearts that the moment was right, and I had my faith to keep me going. Advisors don’t need to all draw faith from the same place or set of beliefs, but they do need to have faith in something larger than themselves to carry them through tough calls or tough times.
Penultimate moments can get lost in the day-to-day shuffle by those who only care about their destination. But advisors who learn to look for and harness these inflection points can earn themselves happier and more successful lives and careers.
About The Author
Vanessa is the owner of Pondera County Insurance. She specializes in estate planning and asset protection focusing on family farms and next generation transitions. Vanessa was born and raised in Conrad, MT. She earned her Bachelor’s in Finance from UNLV and her MBA from the University of Montana. Prior to opening her own agency, Vanessa had 15 years of lending experience as a Commercial and Agriculture Loan Officer.
Vanessa is the author of the book “The Penultimate Step” which she shares her own personal journey. This motivational memoir discusses the many penultimate steps in her life and encourages the reader to never give up on their own dreams.
Vanessa is a registered representative offering securities through NYLIFE Securities, LLC Member FINRA/SIPC, a licensed insurance agency. She is a seven-year qualifying member of MDRT.