“Letting go is the natural release that always follows the realization that holding on hurts.”1 —Guy Finely
In my Freshman year at Miami University in Oxford, OH, I came under the influence of the Resident Adviser (RA). A slight, intense upper classman, Don converted me to two of his hobbies: Pipe smoking and sky diving. (When my wife and I got married, she disabused me of the idea that these could be life-long habits.)
I remember the first time we drove out to Green County Parachute Club (now known as “Skydive Greene County”). Don brought a bunch of people that day to experience the thrill for the first time. We all stood and received instructions regarding how to leave the plane, prepare for landing and what to do in case the main parachute did not open. We were instructed about the things that can go wrong. We were also informed as to what we could wear or have on our bodies. Then, divided into small groups, we took turns climbing into a small plane for a spiral rise up to 3,500 feet.
I was blessed to have Don along on my plane. He was known to me and I trusted him. The plan was to move over to the door. I was connected by a static line to the aircraft. This meant that on my first jump I did not actually have to pull the cord in order to deploy the chute. It would be done for me as soon as I left the plane. All I had to do was place my left foot on a small step (about the size of a door stop), push off when instructed, and reach for the wing strut. Wing struts, in those days, were tubular members on the airplane that acted as support structures. They connected the wing to the fuselage. By leaping out and reaching forward I would be horizontally positioned perfectly for the chute to deploy.
As you can imagine, on the first jump from an airplane 3,500 feet above ground, moving at airspeeds of up to 125 miles per hour, adrenaline floods the system, the reflexes are on high alert and everything is happening at a fever pitch. When Don yelled into my ear “Jump!” I obeyed. A little too vigorously. My hands not only reached for the wing strut, the force of my push off the step caused me to actually reach the metal bar. Next thing that happened was unintended. I clenched the strut with both hands.
It is one thing to sit and ponder a jump into space, and quite another to release your grip on the only thing keeping you from falling 3,500 feet. All of a sudden the whole notion of trusting in a static line to deploy my chute seemed incredulous. So, I held on. Within a split second, Don was adding further instructions to the initial command to jump. Things like, “Let go!” and something that sounded like “another trucker” kept pouring from his lips at high decibels.
Letting go was hard to do. I eventually did and ended up having a long walk back to the Green County Parachute Club Quonset hut. The jumpmaster recorded my actions on my first jump in my logbook.
Letting Go Is Sometimes Hard
“Real life is not static.”2 Rarely does anything tether us to certainty. Instead, letting go means leaving one level of confidence before we can enter a new level. For the independent financial advisor (IFP), certainty is a good thing. The typical IFP invests significant time and practice in creating a proven process for discovering and realizing the client’s needs and dreams. Service is everything when creating differentiation. To the extent it is humanly possible, IFPs attempt to control the process from beginning to end to ensure a positive client experience. Does that sound like you?
Discovering Success by Letting Go
Letting go begins with the realization that you have limited capacity. I can juggle, but only using three juggling balls. I know people who can juggle five. I do not believe anyone can juggle, say, twenty. Our focus, our attention, our time and our energy are finite. When we face our limitations, we find our freedom. The freedom to become everything we can become starts by letting go of whatever holds us back. Success is the ability to achieve our best by releasing everything that is not critical.
#1 Let Go of Relationships
The typical IFP collects relationships with clients, BGAs, carriers, wholesalers and other advisors. IFPs tend to be people who like people, and are friendly and outgoing. The successful IFP knows when a relationship is contributing to success or simply tangential. The difference between essential and tangential relationships is found on either side of a divide created by these factors:
- Shared vision
- Proven history
- Efficient time usage
- Contributions to personal growth
Some clients contribute to the IFP’s personal satisfaction and sense of professional accomplishment. The IFP simply needs to hear the client’s name and immediately the sense of achievement rises inside. “I remember when we first started working together and now look at the difference our relationship has developed!”
Other clients are nice people, even enjoyable, but little progress can be attributed to the relationship. Perhaps they need to be let go.
Similarly, most IFPs work with more than one BGA. The average is between two and three. Each BGA requires time and effort to keep a relationship productive. The successful IFP will select the best relationship and let the others go.
More carrier relationships are not always better. Representing a product now should mean representing that carrier into the future in order to properly service the business. To maintain an active appointment with multiple carriers is difficult. The successful IFP will let go any carrier relationship that will not be core to the model the IFP is building.
One BGA told me he and his team receive as many as 20 visits per month from wholesalers. These wholesalers spend as much as two hours in the office. That is one week of work (40 hours) each month spent by the team. When pressed, the BGA could not attribute measurable results from these visits. My advice? Let them go. When they call to schedule a visit tell them “no.” Of course, the wholesalers representing just the core partner companies should be allowed to visit, but only if their visit will generate results.
#2 Let Go Control
To be trusted, a leader must be followed. To be followed a leader must have character. To have character the leader must have purpose and vision. A leader’s trust is earned by having a clear purpose/vision, and by demonstrating true character. The same is true of you. As an IFP, you have an idea for your practice, and a preference for the type of client you are meant to serve. You know what it is that you do best. Anything that you do that is outside of your core purpose and competitive advantage dilutes your effectiveness.
No matter how hard we try, we cannot control everything that our business does. The successful IFP knows what she can do that no one else can do as well. She will make these decisions:
- Delegate any task that others can do as effectively
- Place complete trust in the person assigned each task
- Ask for minimal reporting from these team members
- Make sure that each person sharing in the responsibilities is clear about two things:
- The IFP’s vision
- The individual’s personal role in achieving that vision
When all tasks in the business process and service model are evaluated, most can be delegated. The successful IFP will simply let go and trust others to accomplish their assigned responsibilities.
#3 Let Go of False Comparisons
Most IFPs I have met are competitive. They like beating the averages, but what they truly enjoy is outperforming other IFPs. This often leads to IFPs making comparisons between their own practices and the business model of other IFPs. This, in turn, causes the individual IFP to embrace activities and business practices that are unnecessary, even contradictory, to his practice.
The only comparison required to grow your own business is contrasting your business model and success you have achieved to date against the ideal business model and ideal success you desire to achieve in five years. No successful IFP achieves her best potential by trying to be someone else.
The successful IFP will look into the future and envision the level of success that is possible to achieve. This will create the vision. The vision creates the priorities. The priorities reveal what needs to be measured. Everything else must be let go.
Whether you are a BGA, a wholesaler, an independent financial professional or have some other role in financial services, please consider taking these next steps:
Evaluate your business relationships. Who are the people who are likeable, but not likely to help you achieve your vision? You can stay friends, but you need to let them go when it comes to building your business.
Ask yourself, “What am I doing that others can do as well?” What tasks take your time but do not maximize your skills? Let them go. Delegate. Transfer responsibility to people who share your vision and embrace their individual role in helping achieve it. Trust them. Your trust in them will increase their commitment to you.
Review your vision and examine whether what you are doing was designed to achieve your purpose or is merely copied from the business model of another person attempting to accomplish her vision. Get your eyes off other IFPs. Focus your attention on your business model and how you will measure success in five years. Then, you will be able to identify your priorities. These will tell you what to measure.
Back to my first sky-diving experience. When I finally let go, and found myself quickly under canopy, gliding down to earth, I could hear everything on the ground. A woman far below was listening to music. I heard a dog barking. I saw the plane from which I had disembarked now circling down to collect the next group of skydivers. I found peace and wonder. I was free to soak in what it was I came to do and see.
Letting go is sometimes the best way to experience success.