When Jonathan DeYoe’s brother and business partner passed away in summer 2021, for months he would take walks in a park near his home, “screaming at the trees,” before retreating into his home office in his basement, separating himself from his family so they wouldn’t see his grief. His brother was the one male peer he spoke to regularly, and he remembered he had thoughts of suicide in the aftermath of the tragedy.
“What I realized was I wasn’t going to make it doing it that way, this whole method of men toughing it out, (to) man up, dealing with it,” he recalled.
DeYoe, a senior vice president and partner at EP Wealth and founder of Mindful Money, described this process of grief and recovery during a panel discussion at the MarketCounsel Summit focused on how advisors can survive trying periods in their lives.
During the panel, DeYoe stressed that the older approach of having a stiff upper lip did not help the healing process.
“This is something we’ve never learned to do, in this industry, as a family, as men in our culture,” he said.
Gavin Spitzner, president of Wealth Consulting Partners; John Hyland, a managing director with Private Advisor Group; and Marc Nichols, a product director with Arbor Digital, also shared their experiences dealing with personal crises.
Nichols said his experience as a survivor of sexual and child abuse had undoubtedly permeated his professional career, and said he was hopeful about the opportunity to “dive into vulnerability” of what it takes to be a leader in the industry, with the hope that it was possible to redefine antiquated ideas of what male strength looks like.
“We do so much more than telling people what to do with their money that being a financial advisor (means) they’re coming to you in a moment of vulnerability,” he said. “We require them to be vulnerable.”
Remembering his upbringing, Nichols said he lived in an all-female household with his single mother and twin sister, and as he grew and entered the financial services space, he increasingly felt a “misalignment” with the interests of the other men in the firms. He found difficulty due to this difference; he was told he wasn’t a “good teammate” because he wasn’t interested in drinking, parties and client events.
“I never fit into that traditional sense of what men should be doing, and that was a struggle,” he said.
Both Hyland and Spitzner have been fighting cancer; Hyland beat acute myeloid leukemia, a blood cancer, three separate times before being diagnosed with throat cancer in July 2020. After another tough round of treatments, Hyland is currently cancer-free.
“So I’ve seen the quote, ‘It’s not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get back up,’” he said. “That’s what I’m doing.”
Spitzner’s currently undergoing treatments for AML; he first realized something was wrong after feeling extremely fatigued, and, with further tests, doctors discovered he was anemic and eventually diagnosed him with the same form of cancer Hyland experienced. Spitzner pledged to be open with co-workers and clients, and ended his consulting work immediately after the diagnosis, discussing treatment plans just a few days later.
He has been receiving outpatient chemotherapy since October and is responding well. Spitzner’s also on track for a stem cell transplant and urged attendees to visit BeTheMatch.org, saying there remains a huge shortage of stem cell donors, particularly in the U.S. Spitzner said Hyland has been a friend and mentor during his treatment and said the shock of the diagnosis forced him to reckon with its place in his life.
“This isn’t the end, or a pause; this is something new,” he said. “This is a new beginning into something different, if I just open myself to it.”
But the lessons from these crises don’t only matter in acute instances of grief, illness and trauma, said DeYoe; even in everyday life, people, including those in the financial services industry, wear masks.
“Every morning you wake up and there’s some s--- in your life that says that everything’s OK, and you go to work and you pretend that everything’s OK, and you don’t share vulnerability and share the hard stuff,” he said. “If we can culturally get to a place where we’re OK with sharing the hard stuff, the shared hard stuff is easier to deal with than the unshared hard stuff."