Golfing legend Gary Player often tells an audience his secret to positive, purposeful living. Says Player, “Every morning when I get up, I look in the mirror and say to myself, ‘Gary, today you can be happy or you can be miserable.’ I choose happy!” Frankly, it makes a huge difference in our daily work which choice we make and which choice the client in front of us made earlier in the day.

What are you choosing? Israeli anthropologist Yuval Noah Harari, in his 2014 published book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind offers an insight. He notes in one of the last chapters of what I thought was a terrific read, that chemistry plays a huge part in what happiness means. Some people are simply wired to be more optimistic; others gloomy. No matter how cheery the weather may be, a gloomy-bent personality may broach a smile for a moment, but clouds are on the way!

Sobering, to say the least! Let’s check what I call the “happiness meter” to test Harari’s thesis. People who know me well will tell you I’m a fairly optimistic, glass-half-full person. Life’s challenges rock my boat as they do with all of us, but my personality doesn’t stay there long. What about you? Harari has made me think, for more than 5 years now, that all of us in the people business would be wise to make peace with who we are. You probably lean one way or the other. Staying in this business and being effective, however, may demand choosing happy.

Clients may not be so aware. Like us, everyone we serve leans naturally either toward being optimistic or gloomy. What do you think? Perhaps we would do better work if we would add a happy/gloomy assessment to the risk tolerance profile. 

Why? If you sense the client naturally chooses happy, you might have a different conversation about market volatility and planning than with the client who naturally sees every glass half empty. “Know your client” has a whole other realm of meaning when you make these kinds of mental notes and put them to work.

When you sense a person bent towards gloomy, find ways to invite them to talk about their concerns and respond to them with both validation and education. Harari’s research suggests it’s almost impossible to fight the chemistry. But you can be positive about addressing misinformation about risk and investing that cripples many and weakens more than a few. On the other hand, if the client leans into happy, times are you will need to temper an unrealistic optimism with a reminder that markets change and volatility is a tenured resident.

More than anything, however, is our need to monitor our own happiness meter. Remember that the people we serve need us to lead them, support them, and understand them even when their own chemistry fights happy. So get in touch with your own chemistry and own what it is. Take Gary Player’s advice and choose happy. Knowing this tidbit about yourself is powerful and could well change many client conversations when the world tilts and market volatility gets dicey!  

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