You can't change the context or the constraints of the outside world, but you can focus on your own internal potential.
Pretend you are attending an investment conference when two people walk into the room. Both are the same age, same length of service, same intelligence, same passion, and same drive. Both are financial advisors, but the second person is a million-dollar producer. With everything else being equal, how did the second person build such a large practice?
As a financial advisor, the success of your practice is built within a context of everything that is happening in the economy, the markets, and the political climate. You have no power to change the context, or the constraints, of the outside world. Yet, regardless of what is happening around you, you can choose to focus on what is happening inside of you.
Therefore, the point of this article is to encourage you to step outside of the external context of the markets, and take time to re-engage with your internal potential.
Let's walk through a thought exercise:
Keep the above scenario in mind as you look at the Simultaneous Contrast Illusion below, a famous optical illusion, and the explanation of how it works.
Simultaneous Contrast Illusion Explanation
From Wikipedia: "Perceptual constancies are sources of illusions. Color constancy and brightness constancy are responsible for the fact that a familiar object will appear the same color regardless of the amount of light or color of light reflecting from it. An illusion of color or contrast difference can be created when the luminosity or color of the area surrounding an unfamiliar object is changed. The contrast of the object will appear darker against a black field that reflects less light compared to a white field even though the object itself did not change in color. Similarly, the eye will compensate for color contrast depending on the color cast of the surrounding area."
The bar in the image above is actually one consistent shade of gray. The background gradient moving from black to light gray creates the illusion of a gradient within the bar. No matter what physical capabilities you try to conjure up, you cannot break the illusion unless you remove the bar from background:
4 Insights to Change the Context of Your Internal Potential
1. Be Devoted to Continual Learning
Of course you need to stay abreast of the economy and the markets, but what could happen if you made an intentional decision to learn? It is often said, "Readers are leaders." Click here for a list of 77 books that have changed my life, along with three recommendations to help you read more.
I have read or listened to books on important topics such as selling, prospecting, success, managing money, body language, goal setting, the brain science of change, public speaking, motivation, honor, courage, perseverance, overcoming distraction, depression, happiness, purpose, the psychology of living an optimal life, and team work. I have linked each one of these words to books that can change the context of your life. If you are not a reader, you can download all of these books for a small cost from Audible.com.
2. Surround Yourself With People Who Bring Out the Best in You
You learn to be a million-dollar producer by hanging out with million-dollar producers. You learn how to prospect high-net-worth clients by hanging out with high-net-worth clients. You learn to laugh and find purpose in life by spending time with people you love.
You spend more time at work than you do at home. Everything you see and hear and experience is a form of communication. A 14-minute Ted.com video, "This is Your Brain on Communication," taught by neuroscientist Uri Hasson, explains how we become "aligned" with what we hear.
Who will bring out the very best in you?
3. Be Challenged Every Day
How do you define challenge? A challenge can be a battle or a fight. It can be a call to compete in a contest of strength or willpower. But in this context, I am asking about the challenges you set for yourself. Setting goals is like throwing down the gauntlet. Goals are the starting point for taking off the gloves and accepting the challenges you set for yourself.
When you set challenging personal goals, you discover potential and drive to keep moving forward. Watch the recording of one of my recent workshops, Personal Goal Setting for 2016. The purpose of this class is to help you understand where you are today and where you want to be in the future. In just one hour, I share the first four steps of setting personal goals that can challenge and inspire you.
4. Believe You Can Do It
There is relatively new psychological data that believing you can reach a goal is just as important as setting the goal. In their book, Psychological Capital and Beyond, Fred Luthans, Carolyn Youssef-Morgan, and Bruce Avolio study quantitative data that has been researched and measured much like modern portfolio theory. Their book (which reads like a post-graduate textbook) is a fascinating look at the psychological impact of believing you can reach a stated goal.
One of their concepts, efficacy, is defined as the "capacity for producing a desired result or effect." Efficacy is used in the pharmaceutical world as a measurement of how well a drug produces a positive effect. These are some of the highlights from the chapter on efficacy:
> "…social cognitive theory, efficacy, or simply confidence, can be defined as one's beliefs about his or her ability to mobilize the motivation, cognitive resources, and courses of action necessary to execute a specific action within a given context."
> "Meta-analytical findings support a highly significant positive relationship between efficacy and work related performance."
> "Efficacy motivates you to choose and welcome challenges, and to use your strengths and skills to meet and in many cases, excel in meeting those challenges. It encourages and energizes you to pursue your goals and invest the time and hard work that may be necessary to accomplish them."
What Is the Context of Your Life
Much of the context of your daily work life is driven through external circumstances that are out of your control, such as individual asset performance, market volatility, and the timing of bull and bear markets. Let's call that the context of your business life. However, you do have control over some of the context in your personal life. The four insights listed above are choices you can make or skills you can learn.
The context of my business life as a financial advisor spanned 30 years. Since my first day as a financial advisor in 1982, my career led through the crash of 1987, the raging bull market of the '90s, the collapse of the tech bubble beginning in March 2000, the devastation of 9/11, and the banking crisis of 2008. Yet, inside that context, I made the choices to be devoted to continual learning, to surround myself with people who bring out the best in me, to embrace challenges, and to believe that honesty, integrity, and hard work would result in a positive outcome. In the midst of that context, our team's gross production revenues grew toward, and then substantially past, the million-dollar mark.
And now, I have changed my life work to become a full-time personal coach, business development coach, and corporate consultant. The context of your external circumstances will always change. The good news is, you can change and grow as well.