A new decade has begun and with it, a fresh opportunity to peek at the small rear-view mirror of the 2010’s – just a peek! – while focused on the wide windshield of the 2020’s. Look back for a moment and learn. Look forward and grow. Learn . . . grow!

Let us start with a brief glance over our shoulder. The last decade witnessed record returns for investors, the re-election of Barack Obama and the election of Donald Trump, and an economy that still sees record low unemployment and the resurgence of the housing sector. The meteoric rise and relentless growth of technology is changing – rapidly changing—every aspect of our lives. What did we learn?

As an advisor, I learned and hopefully, through this blog, we learned that deep, nourishing relationships with clients differentiate us from the herd.

We learned that all of us are in a narrative that is as old as our lives and, in every connected relationship, much older. We learned that clients seldom leave us for performance. And yes, we learned that business, going places at light-speed unimagined in 2010, requires a focus more on story, on life-crisis sensitivity, and more on the people who invite us to serve them.

But where are the growth opportunities in this new decade? Who will survive the AI-ROBO revolution already underway? What must we do to be our best selves, effective advisory professionals, caring life-mentors in the 2020’s? Not rocket science here. Just four simple reminders that will change how others perceive you, how you understand yourself and your work’s effectiveness.

  1. Dial in to your own stuff. Be ever vigilant to “know thyself,” being aware of seductive confidence and crippling fear, sneaky anger and ignored pain. Advisors who do their best work learning and living in the stories of their clients first get in touch with their own story. What is the purpose of my life? What gifts dot my life’s landscape? What issues/concerns/prejudices taint my perspectives? “Who am I?” is still life’s most probing and provocative question.
  2. Listen more, talk less. I know this is a broken Owings record, but we must stop talking so much, saturating our listeners with all we know. Yes, there is and will always be more data to harvest. Yes, advisors must have an opinion and be able to share it succinctly. But if we fail first to listen to our clients’ stories, feel their pain and joy, understand where they are in life’s journey, and plumb what purpose and meaning is for them, all our data splashing, numbers bombing will be for naught.
  3. Be the person you would want your parents to have as their advisor. Integrity, transparency, character, values, purpose conspire to fashion us into the person others want to emulate and follow. Enough said!
  4. Keep your eye on the reason we do what we do every day. Stephen Covey made it popular. Always, “begin with the end in mind.” It takes courage, having built a trusting relationship, to say to a client, “You must not go down that road.” It takes even greater courage to turn clients into dreamers, casting a vision with them of a life far more meaningful than what is past. Remember why you do what you do, making the “how you do it” tools your servant, not your master.

Learn . . . grow! These next ten years will be replete with births and deaths, successes and failures, health and wealth, and gains and losses of all kinds. Be the trusted advisor, deeply invested in your story and the stories of those you serve, and all will be well. All manner of things will be well.

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