Yes, it’s true. They are creating artificial snow at the Olympics in Beijing. Some like it, some don’t. Check the facts before you launch an international incident. The winter Olympic Games have been using some form of artificial snow since 1980. I’ve learned that World Cup ski events routinely use it.

To be clear, I have never had a pair of snow skis on my feet. I’ve never even tried on a pair, believing that discretion is always the better part of valor, especially when one of my two legs is iffy under the best of circumstances.

This issue got me to thinking more about the word “artificial.” Its root is from the Latin artificialis meaning “skill,” “art,” and “human made.” Artificial snow is – duh! – human made. But what about the related word “artifice” that suggests cunning or crafty deception? Where does something humans manufacture become deceptive? We have sugar (natural) and sweeteners of many kinds (artificial). The decking on your back porch may be wood (natural) or a manufactured product (artificial). I once owned a car thinking the trim was wood only to learn it was high gloss plastic.

Advisors would be wise to reflect on this whole artificial-human made-artifice-cunning continuum. Why? If we are not careful, we can find ourselves in conversations that move down a slippery slope that picks up speed from a beginning about topic “A” that morphs into a deceptive twist becoming something else—“B” or worse!

What do I mean? Clients quickly sense an advisor who is warm and caring (natural) vis-à-vis someone who wants to get past the “small talk” as quickly as possible (artificial). My years of being with others in scores of varied circumstances—from the joyful to the tragic—have taught me many things. At the top of that list is the priority a professional must place on conveying a genuine, engaged, don’t-look-at-your-watch presence.

The services we are competent to offer can zoom down this slope. One of my mentors in the business taught me to know when to say, “I’m not prepared to speak to that right now. May I get back to you in the next couple of days?” No client ever turned me down on that request! Be aware that professionals who believe they can “fake it till they make it” often wipe out having been found out and fired!

A third realm where judgment can fail is in manufacturing success. Professionals of every species often have extensive training with letters after their names. Letters like M.D., CPA, CFP®, J.D., Ph.D., and M.B.A. don’t mean everything, but they do mean something. Though I earned and hold six of those letters just listed, life and immaturity taught me long ago that crowing about some self-imagined success falls flat and never ends up manufacturing (there’s “that word” again) the desired effect.

In a word, this conversation about artificial anything is all about integrity. What we say, how we say it, what we believe, what we offer, and most of all, who we are when no one is looking is foundational to being an authentic professional. They will continue to blow the human-made snow at the Beijing Olympics. Don’t go there in your practice! Be your best self, being in touch with genuine care, knowledgeable competencies, and the toxic poison of self-promotion.

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