In life we are presented with obstacles and opportunities.
Each one of the obstacles above is real. Each one causes stress, and each one causes financial advisors to lose their focus. Recognizing them and how they affect your personal daily work habits is a great first step. In this month's column we will move our attention from how various obstacles impact our life to learning how to focus on opportunities no matter what the circumstances.
As financial advisors, we often allow external circumstances like short-term volatility, opinions from various sources, and even our own lack of confidence to dramatically impact our careers.
The 2012 London Olympics was filled with stories of people who had overcome amazing obstacles, and their biographies of courage and lifetimes of effort were truly inspirational. One of those stories was of the double amputee, South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius. Although he left without London Olympic medals, Oscar gained the respect of millions and left with the opportunity to participate in the 2012 London Paralympic Games.
An elite athlete you may not have heard of is Rudy Garcia-Tolson. Rudy was born in 1988 with a rare series of birth defects. After 15 surgeries by the age of five, Rudy was ready to move in a different direction in life. With his parents' blessing, they chose to have both of his legs amputated above the knee.
Rudy and his family had faced obstacles that would have crushed others, but not Rudy--by losing his legs he was finally free to follow the dreams so many people have, and he began to turn his obstacles into opportunities. In 2004 he won his first Paralympic gold medal in the 200 meter individual medley. In 2006 he completed the Ford Ironman World Championship in Clearwater, Fla., covering a distance of 70.3 miles--swimming 1.2 miles, biking 56 miles, and running 13.1 miles. Then, in 2008 at the Beijing Games he again brought home another gold medal in swimming.
Rudy will also be competing in the 2012 London Paralympic Games.
Unfortunately for me, I have never met Rudy or Oscar in person--but it doesn't take much of a leap to see that both these men have made the decisions to incorporate the following opportunities into their daily routines:
As a financial advisor, you have the choice to dwell on the obstacles in your life and allow the external circumstances that currently exist to become your reality. Or you can recognize there may be many external circumstances you will never have control over. But you have the opportunity to control how you allow those circumstances to affect your life. You can choose how you react to them, you can choose how you think about them, and you can choose how you will move forward.
Here are seven opportunities to choose greatness in difficult times:
1. Plan: Planning requires stepping back from the "noise" and taking time to think about what is happening all around you. When was the last time you blocked off even seven minutes of time to think during your work day? Planning involves creating a daily plan of action.
2. Organize: Disorganization is often the result of indecision--better planning makes better organization much simpler. When you have a clear picture of what you want to accomplish, you can more easily remove the actions that are not bringing you closer to those goals. Organization allows you to take a plan of action that you have created and organize all of the different moving parts into a framework or system that creates a whole.
3. Focus: The opportunity to focus your attention can be life-changing. In the case of both athletes above, they focused their full effort and attention on their individual sports of strength. Oscar excels at running. Rudy excels at swimming. As a financial advisor, how well have you chosen to focus your attention?
4. Concentrate: Time is one of your most precious commodities. Each week we have only a specific number of minutes, hours, and days to accomplish what needs to be done. Are you concentrating your time on your "highest value activities"? Have you even defined what you should concentrate on?
5. Determine: Determination is the opposite of procrastination, because when you determine to make something happen in your life--something changes--there is a physical, mental, and emotional change of mindset that occurs. Determination in life is like placing a stake in the ground, and you decide there is no turning back.
6. Order: One of the great mysteries of life is how we each look to bring order and meaning to the circumstances and challenges we face. Dawson Trotman said, "My thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through my fingertips." Take a few minutes every day to take the thoughts, projects, dreams, and ideas that have been racing through your subconscious mind and write them down in a journal. Bring some order and clarity to your thoughts.
7. Pursue: Of all the words listed in this article, I believe this word may be the one that separates the good from the great. Pursue means to strive toward, to fight through the pain, to continue on. The financial advisors that will survive and even thrive are those who will continue to do the right things for the right reasons.
Many different people have been quoted saying, "Circumstances don't create character; rather, they reveal it." I agree, and I believe that the obstacles we have faced over the last decade will be the launching point for some of the greatest opportunities ahead.
As Rudy says, "a brave heart is a powerful weapon."