Maybe the most nagging issue we face as professionals is aligning what we want people to think about us with what we know about ourselves. This struggle or tension might best be illustrated by the photograph of the little duck calmly cruising a pond, head focused, feathers all in place, while beneath the water, his little feet are frenetically paddling with all the gusto a duck can muster. The caption?  “I may look calm on the surface, but underneath, I’m paddling like hell!”

Making peace with what others see and what we know ourselves bumps into integrity. For example, you may find it difficult to talk candidly with clients about being financially prudent when you know your own financial house is not in order. Believe me, I know how easy it can be to put off to some distant tomorrow what screams for attention today.

More than a decade ago, after I framed and hung on the wall my beautiful CFP® certificate, I realized the planning process through which I put all my clients was not a journey my wife and I had taken ourselves. Oh, I could be quite persuasive when asking clients to embark on the financial planning process. But somewhere along the prospecting “yellow brick road,” I had failed to do that very hard work for myself. Within a few days, I gathered all our financial data, carved out a few late hours at home, and walked my wife and me through the results. Sobering? At points. Troubling? A bit here and there. Required? You bet!

The same could be said about funding your 401(k) or being on top of the debt monster before it supersizes or making sure your estate and advance directive documents are in order or, if appropriate, taking out that long-term care policy we want our clients to purchase.

Integrity is always staring us in the face! We work in a business where prospects and clients alike believe we practice the disciplines we preach. When we fail to do that, no matter how we appear on the outside, something inside just doesn’t add up.

Lest you think I have all my “i’s” dotted and “t’s” crossed, think again. I faced the same demons you do. There were times when I was tempted to take a due diligence shortcut that was not in my client’s best interest. Like you, I had to look my face in the mirror every day and have a little talk with myself about doing the right thing in the right way at the right time for the right reason. 

At the end of the day or a year or a career, the only currency we have is our integrity.  Underneath the calm surface of our well-manicured exterior is a pair of legs trying to keep our business moving forward. I learned a long time ago that my feet, like yours, are made of clay. So perhaps as the last four months of 2022 begin, we all might take a quick self-test to check the integrity pulse of our lives and business. And when we do, let’s remember that nothing is worth the sale of our souls; even for a commission, a client, or another step up whatever the “success ladder” looks like in your life.

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