“No man is an Island, entire of itself.”
That excerpt from a 17th-century sermon given by a man named John Donne has become a popular proverb that describes the inherent connectivity of humankind. In essence, it says that humans cannot get along with their lives and succeed on their own—that we are all dependent on other people for support.
If you can imagine a conversation between two people, one of whom has ambitions of becoming a financial advisor, it might sound something like this:
First person: When I leave school, I’m going to start a financial planning practice.
Second person: That’s great, but how are you going to do it by yourself?
First person: I don’t need anyone else; I can do it alone.
Second person: No man is an island; you’ll need someone’s support at one point or another.
While that actual conversation may have never taken place, it’s no secret that many people who set out to become financial advisors do so because they like the idea of being independent. But it doesn’t start out that way. Most of us started our careers as trainees thrown together with other trainees to learn the business, typically by reading manuals or attending formal classroom presentations.
However, as we now know, 90% of what advisors need to learn about the business doesn’t come from the classroom. What we learned from classroom training was often forgotten within 30 days. The way we learned most of what we know to be successful comes from other advisors through informal training, mentoring, or observation. The most successful advisors have found a way to continue their education in that way throughout their career, relying on others for education, career, and mental support. Other advisors choose to go it alone.
You don’t need to (and shouldn’t) go it alone.
I want to suggest that, regardless of your stage in the business, you can accelerate your career ambitions and maintain your mental health by taking advantage of the community of advisors that surrounds you. No one understands what you are going through—the emotional struggles, mental obstacles, and daily challenges of growing a practice—more than those who share the same arena.
Whether you work in a branch office, a large RIA, or at home, it’s essential to actively build relationships with peers and colleagues with whom you can commiserate on the issues confronting you.
Join the community of Advisors.
For many advisors, the kind of support they really need can’t be found within the confines of their office. Maybe they don’t feel a connection with any of their colleagues, or the experience gap is too wide. They can join advisor networks or membership associations, such as the FPA, NAIFA, or NAPFA, and participate in local chapters or meetups. You’ll get recharged while meeting like-minded advisors in the same boat as you. For younger advisors, the FPA and NAPFA (FPA NexGen and NAPFA Genisis) have subgroups that focus on their unique challenges.
You can take it to the next level by reaching out to those with whom you make a connection to start a support group that meets in person or virtually. The idea is to surround yourself with similarly situated peers who can challenge you, hold you accountable to your goals, and support you when you need a lift.
Find a mentor.
For some advisors, group interaction may not be their thing, finding more comfort in one-on-one connections. That’s fine, but that person should be someone with more experience and perspective and a genuine interest in your success. In other words, a mentor who can share valuable insights, give you feedback, let you know which issues are important and which to ignore, hold you accountable to your work objectives, and provide critical emotional support when needed. Having someone like that to meet with once a month can be the most valuable relationship you can have.
There’s too much at stake to go it alone
Ask any seasoned advisor, and they will tell you it’s foolish to think you can go it alone. This business is unlike any other, and the emotional toll it can take is as severe as it gets. You may have read or been told at one point that, as a financial advisor, “your success depends on none other than you.” That’s true to the extent it’s up to you to put in the time and effort, whatever it takes, to overcome the gauntlet of obstacles. But you still don’t have to go it alone.