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Here Are Some Million Dollar Questions for You

Are you passionate about your career and challenging yourself by working toward serious growth goals?

CHICAGO — “Why do so few people reach their potential?” Martha asked, in a serious but inquisitive, almost philosophical manner. Without waiting for my response, she then asked an equally deep question, “How does one determine their potential?”

Conversations of this nature have always intrigued me. Martha wasn’t asking me how to take her wealth management team from $2 million to $3 million. She had my attention to the extent that we spent the next 30 minutes or so discussing the topic. Although it’s impossible for me to transcribe our conversation, I’m going to attempt to share the highlights in the form of some of the questions we posed.

Would you hire yourself? This elicited a chuckle as we both thought of discussions we’ve had on this topic with other advisors. It usually took the form of “If anything ever happened to you, who in your office would you want to handle your family’s financial affairs?” It was always a very short list. My hope is that you are that person who would hire yourself. You’re the entire package: integrity, knowledgeable, caring and passionate about helping clients with their finances.

Does your career define you? Think about this for a moment. At first glance, this concept might appear a bit much—being defined by your career. However, if you’re truly passionate about your profession, whether you’re a cardiologist or a financial advisor, it’s very likely become part of your DNA. It’s with you 24/7. This is not to insinuate that you’re working 24 hours a day, but your passion isn’t something you turn off when you leave the office.    

Have you ever met a financial advisor who considered themselves average? Think about it. Who in the world wants to be average? The irony is that even though most advisors hold themselves in fairly high regard, this opinion is not always supported by their actions. I remembered sitting in an advisor’s office and listening to him complain about his firm, how it was holding him back, etc. As I listened to his highly detailed "poor me" rant, I couldn’t miss his Mensa membership nicely framed and prominently displayed. I then used it to challenge him:

I see you’re a Mensa member,” I remarked, as he puffed up with pride—I hit him where I knew it would hurt—high IQ pride, “I’ve been listening to you use your intelligence to make excuses for your career for the past 15 minutes, and you’re too smart to be this stupid.”

Again, you had to be there, but he knew exactly what I was saying. Here was this underperforming advisor not accepting responsibility for his career. I proceeded to give him an abbreviated coaching session, but I doubt this "certified" high-IQ advisor-victim is anywhere close to his potential—probably still playing victim.

Are you more focused on your weekends and vacations than your career? This wasn’t a question Martha and I were asking of each other, I simply threw it out there as a hypothetical, for people in general. What was interesting was that neither of us could think of a top-notch advisor who had this mindset. Elite advisors love their profession; it defines who they are, and their success is what has enabled them to create a wonderful life for themselves and their families. This is a stark contrast to underperforming advisors, who often view their profession as a “job” and simply work to make a living rather than a life. As a result, weekends and vacations tend to take heightened importance.

So although I’ve yet to discover a tool for determining one’s potential, I’m going to share the two questions, which I framed as “million dollar” questions, that I left our Mensa advisor to ponder.

Million Dollar Questions:

  • Are you passionate about your career? If so…
  • Are you challenging yourself by working diligently towards serious growth goals?

When both are answered affirmatively, the odds are that person, regardless of profession, is on their critical path leading them to their potential.

Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent

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