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Resource Zone

Removing barriers to reach your next level of success

Steven A. Plewes, CLU, ChFC

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On the surface, you have everything you need, yet you just can’t seem to break through to that next level. Plewes reveals the elements that might be holding you back from reaching your true potential as not just a sales professional, but a human being. We all know the outer blocks that frustrate us — time management, feeling overwhelmed, lack of prospects, etc. Plewes helps you better understand and overcome the inner blocks that are holding you back from reaching the sales success and work-life balance you deserve and want to achieve. Walk away with the tools, vision and motivation to begin your own journey toward successfully reaching your next-level sales and life goals.

If you didn’t wake up tomorrow, what part of your life would remain unlived? If, God forbid, a tree fell on you and you just didn’t make it to tomorrow, what would be written about you? Everything you’ve done has been done; there’s no more time. What would people say about the type of person that you were? Who were you? What would people say that you accomplished, or didn’t accomplish, in the amount of time that you had on this Earth that was allocated to you, which you had complete control over? What would they say?

The reason I ask this question is because today we’re going to talk about discovering how to break through barriers to achieve success, the kind of success that you want. There are many factors, and I will be introducing some coaching elements, but I want you to start thinking about these questions because I think it sets the tone for our discussion about what we want to get real about. Do we really want success, and what does that mean to us?

There will be many takeaways today, but here are five that I want you to pay particular attention to:

  1. In order to be truly successful according to your definition, you need to get very clear about who you are, what you want and why you want it.
  2. The obstacles to your success are mainly between your ears. You can turn these obstacles into opportunities by focusing on what you can control and letting the rest go.
  3. How you see the world affects how people see you. Your energy will attract a like energy. Learn to control this, and you can attract what you want.
  4. A fixed mindset limits your potential and your growth. A growth mindset opens up endless opportunities for you to succeed. Be willing to let go of the beliefs that no longer serve you.
  5. Your success is ultimately defined by your core values, as those values will be how you assess yourself and how you measure success. All actions taken will be driven by what you naturally feel is most important to you and what you will be willing to fight for at all costs.

Removing barriers to next level success

The theme of this session is related to helping you find out what it is you’re shooting for and what’s getting in your way of having what you want. And that’s going to be a different definition for everybody.

The comfort zone

The comfort zone is a place where many of us reside. It’s a very easy place to be. Because it’s everything we already know, it’s everything we already have. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to stay there. But many times, when we have a fixed mindset, the comfort zone becomes our home. To develop a growth mindset, you need to want to get out of your comfort zone a bit and start thinking, How can I move forward to achieve what I really want?

I believe that each and every one of you already has 100 percent of what you need to unlock your full potential. But we spend a lot of time getting ready to get ready. Have you ever caught yourself saying, “Boy, if I could just get to that place, I’d be happy”? “If I could just get there, everything will be perfect.” We’re always chasing these horizon goals. “If I could just get a little bit more education …” or “Once I get that new office …” or “Once I get my professional certification, then I’ll be happy.” I’m here to tell you, you don’t have to wait for any of that. I believe that you already have everything you need right now. You just have to break through the inner blocks and barriers that we all have. And I’m going to help you do that.

I also believe that increased self-awareness equals increased success and happiness. And that’s what we’re all after, isn’t it? Don’t we want more success — as we define it — and don’t we just want to be happy? It’s an underutilized goal, in my experience.

So, self-awareness. People in our industry, including many of you, are very curious about self-improvement. We read all the great books on self-improvement. We all love watching the motivational speakers who can tell us how to get what we want. So we’re curious and interested in that, but how do we take it home and translate it to achieve real results?

What I know is that the top producers in your business are highly self-aware. They know who they are. They know their strengths. They know their weaknesses. And even though they may have some shortcomings or some blocks that tend to hold them up, they have learned how to manage those blocks and how to work through or around them. So what are some of these blocks? How do you recognize them, and how do you manage them when you come up against them so that you can have a higher level of self-awareness and manage them more effectively? If you can master this, you’re going to be a more effective human being, which will absolutely and positively impact your relationships with your clients and boost your sales.

We’re going to talk about five different areas:

  1. What does success look like to you?
  2. How do you see yourself?
  3. How do you see the world?
  4. Shift your mindsets.
  5. Making the change: How do we do it?

What does success look like to you?

What is success anyway? What exactly is it? I know what success is to me.

I’ll share a story with you. Twenty-two years ago, I was in a coaching program for business owners. I was in the program for five years. And one of the first things we did was to set life goals. I set five large life goals. I tell you this story for a couple of reasons. One is, hopefully, it’ll spark some ideas for you to set some life goals that you can work toward going forward. And, second, it will show you what large goals look like.

As I said, I set five life goals. One of them was to stay married to my wife for the rest of my life. Now, I’m not going to say this was the easiest goal I ever set. And it wasn’t probably that easy for her either, but we’ve been married 40 years as of September. My uncle always told me the first 50 years were the hardest, so I feel like we’re making progress. But, seriously, we have a wonderful marriage, and we have three beautiful children and four grandchildren. And we’ve had a lot of fun.

The second goal was I wanted to be physically fit into my old age. The jury’s still out on that, but I’m hanging in there so far. It’s a priority for me to remain physically fit because I see many people, when they get in their 60s — it’s kind of an inflection point where you need to decide whether you want to be fit, or if you want to be unfit and unhealthy. We all need to have reasons to live, and if you have some big goals, then why not just take care of yourself and keep going if you can? OK, sometimes things happen to us, right? That’s why I asked: “What if you didn’t wake up tomorrow? What would you have accomplished?” I want you to get this feeling of “Hey, we set some big goals, and we have a reason to get up every day. And if we can remove the obstacles in our way, then we can go after pretty much anything we want.” And why wouldn’t we? Why don’t we?

The third goal I had was I wanted to educate my kids all the way through college because not everybody in our family got to go to college. So that was important. We wanted them to all go through at least undergrad, which they did.

The fourth goal was I wanted to be financially independent by the time I was 58 years old. And we got pretty close to that goal. It was age 60.

The fifth goal was I wanted to have a second career based on skills that I acquired in my first career. And I wasn’t sure exactly what that would be at that time. I love photography. I love music. But I love people more than anything. And I am passionate about helping people move forward in life, which was the key element of my financial practice and the relationships that I built there. Coaching kind of found me, and it suits me well, and I enjoy it because I can still help people move forward in life. So part of why I’m here today is so I can have some kind of an impact on at least a few of you. If I could get you to have some major lightbulb go on where you can break through to something bigger, I would consider that to be a success.

Who are you?

I really want you to focus on your definition of “success.” I want you to think about what it is that would make you feel successful. To be able to define this properly, though, we have to first ask, who are you really? And that has to do with your values. We tend to think of ourselves as our role. We tend to think of ourselves as financial advisors or a father or a mother. What I’m trying to get you to think about is, What are your core values? Because when you get to where you can just show up, and your values are aligned with your goals, it makes many of your life decisions very, very easy. So when we know exactly who we are, what we do and don’t do, what we accept and what we don’t accept, what our boundaries are, we can be very focused. And when we get focused, many obstacles no longer stop us.

So, who are you?

To remind you, don’t think about your role so much. Think values. Are you creative? Are you a caring person? Are you ambitious? Think about what is important to you in terms of your values. If somebody was to describe you, what would they say? For me, I’m creative. I have a sense of humor. I’m caring. I’m a very intuitive person. I feel things; I feel my way through life, so I have to work with that, because some people I interact with are just pure thinkers; they’re analytical and logical, whereas I’m more of a feeler. So the more you know about who you are and what you bring to the table, the more authentic you can become, and the more you can show up in front of your clients, in your communities and with your families as authentic to who you really are. Then you’re really on track to having true happiness and success.

What do you want?

Once you know who you are, then you have to talk about what it is that you really want. Because all we’re really talking about is literally defining what you want. So, what do you want? I gave you five goals of the things that I wanted. I call these high-altitude goals. But you can make it something short-term if you want. If you’re striving to make Court of the Table for the first time, fine. Top of the Table, fine. Lose 10 pounds, fine. Whatever your goal is, just define it. What do you want?

Write down a couple things that would be important to you in your life, even in the short-term, mid-term or long term.

Why do you want it?

The next thing we need to know is, why do you want it? It’s very important that we know why we want something. Is it for the money? Is it for the financial security? Is it for the ego? Is it for the status? Is it for the sense of accomplishment? Come up with something that is your “why,” and write it down.

When we know who we are and what we’re all about, we become very comfortable in our own skin. And we can show up saying, “This is who I am. This is what I want to do. And this is why I want to do it.” Everything is clear and well-defined. When you know who you are, that becomes your foundation for everything. And when you know what you want, that becomes your mission. And the “why” becomes your fuel, the source of your passion. That’s where the passion comes from. It makes it simple because if you know exactly what you want, and you know why you want it, then you build all your systems around that. All your decisions come back to that, and anything that tries to get into your thinking that is contrary is just a distraction. It’s a distraction because it doesn’t measure up with who you are, the boundaries that you set for yourself, the values that you put in place that are important to you, and it doesn’t match up with your “why.” So it’s easier to make decisions. Especially when we’re so busy and our resources are just tapped out.

I hear people say all the time, “We’re just so busy.” Why are we so busy? Because we’re holding on to things, maybe? Or we’re avoiding some things? We’re trying to validate ourselves in different ways? But once we get crystal clear about who we are, what we want, and why we want it, we then have the foundation to truly focus and start moving toward our goals and really grow.

What’s stopping you?

Even after we are clear, we still have three main obstacles that we run up against.

First of all, how do we see ourselves? We’ve already talked about some of our challenges, but now we’re going to get into some real inner blocks. Some of the barriers are actually how we view ourselves and how we think.

How do you view the world around you? I think you will find this interesting. I had not seen it until I went through my coach training, but it’s an interesting concept about our perceptions of the world and how we react to situations in life, especially under stress. How we react under stress and how we go through the day and our fluctuating energy levels have a huge impact on our productivity. We all know what energy is. We know when a person comes in the room and kind of just lights up the room. And we know the person who comes in the room, and everyone’s thinking, Oh. There they are again. So we know something about energy and how it can affect us. We know good energy, bad energy. We know the effect that that has in terms of attraction or rejection.

And, finally, how you manage your mindset. Are you willing to let go of some things that you just always thought were true? Because they’re only getting you what you’ve already got, but maybe not what you want. How you got where you are is likely because you’re locked into some particular thinking, good and bad. This is mostly stuff we have learned. But we can learn new things, and we can adopt new habits and practices. But it’s not always easy.

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” — Aristotle

How do you see yourself?

Energy blocks

So, how do you see yourself? Well, there’re two main things that we’re going to talk about in this arena. The first is energy blocks. These are things that sap your energy. They keep you away from opportunity. Let’s talk about the four energy blocks.

In coaching, we call the four energy blocks the “GAILs.” The first GAIL is a gremlin. The “gremlin” is just a cute little word to get us to think about that inner critic that we all have, that toxic self-talk that we all hear. It says we’re not good enough. We’re not lovable. We’re not ready. We don’t have enough education. We don’t deserve success. And it comes out whenever we have an opportunity and we’re really excited about doing something, and we’re breaking out of our comfort zone, and we get into that growth mindset. And, all of a sudden, there it is. It shows up saying, “No, you’re not doing that. You’re not going to make that sale. You’re not going to get that opportunity because you’re not good enough. Whoever told you that you could do that?” This is your inner self-talk. I know people have it. I’m not the only one who has it. We all naturally have this. And so what we have to do is just recognize that when we have these thoughts, it is just a thought. It’s not real. It’s not true. We have to move past that and say, “I hear you talking to me, gremlin, but I’m not going to pay attention. I’m not going to buy into what you’re trying to tell me. I’m going to move past that.” The fact that a gremlin may come up in your head at a time when you were trying to do something significant or move out of your comfort zone is absolute confirmation that that’s what you’re supposed to be doing. It seems ironic, but if you’re getting negative messages in your self-talk that you shouldn’t be doing this, that’s 100 percent confirmation that you should be doing it, that it’s going to stretch you and grow you. So, what’s your inner critic saying to you? What do you hear? Write a couple of things down.

Earlier when I asked you to raise your hand and say what your definition of “success” was, why didn’t anybody raise his or her hand? Because your gremlin was telling you something like, “Oh, you might say something stupid” or “People might laugh at me” or “I know other people probably think it’s dumb.” That’s your gremlin talking to you. See how it holds you back? Because what if 10 people had raised their hand and said what a definition of “success” was for them? Think about the dynamic we could have created, in terms of the energy of this group, and how we could’ve opened ourselves up. I’m not scolding you because you didn’t do it. I’m just pointing out a good example where the gremlin might surface. “I’m not really good enough.” Is that what it’s saying to you? “I’m not smart enough to do this” or “I don’t deserve success”?

The second part of the GAILs is assumptions. This is where, because something happened in the past, we believe that it’ll happen again in the future. How many times has this come up for you where you’ve tried something and it failed, and then an opportunity to try it again comes up, and you say, “I did that already. I tried that. I know that’s not going to work, so I’m just not going to even try it again.” We’ll talk about failure and the avoidance of failure later. But this is a small-scale failure. This is just a mindset where you’ve told yourself, Hey, I already tried that. It doesn’t work, so what’s the point? And what you do when you lock yourself down like that is you’re creating a barrier for yourself, which keeps you from moving forward in that thing and not getting what you really want. Even if it’s a small goal, assumptions can have a big negative impact.

I have a coaching client who was just desperate to get out of the office. He knows instinctively that he needs to be out in front of people more. He’s very successful by anybody’s standard, a Top of the Table producer. But he’s very frustrated because he wants to stop being in the office so much. He feels compelled to go in every day. If he doesn’t go in, he feels guilty. So somehow he’s taught himself that that’s what work is (a limiting belief). Somebody told him somewhere down the line that if you’re not in the office, you’re not working. And the worst part of it was, when I really got into it with him, I found out that what he was really worried about was what his employees were going to say if he didn’t come in. He made some assumptions. They’re going to think he’s not working. They’re going to think he’s sick or something’s wrong. So I asked him, “What if they’re thinking the opposite of that? What if they’re thinking, Wow, this guy’s really successful. He doesn’t have to come in all the time. That’s the guy I want to work for. What if they’re thinking, Gosh, I wish he’d spend more time out of the office so I could get some work done?” We’ve all heard that, right? So, I turned his thinking around, and he realized, “You know, I need to be out more.” And once he got out more, and he started seeing more people, guess what? He got more business because he’s an awesome guy, and he’s somebody who just naturally attracts people. And so his instincts were good, but he was locked down by his assumptions. And it’s surprising how often an assumption will impact a relationship or, really, just day-to-day doing business. This is true in your work life and your personal life. To me, it’s all the same. If you know who you are, and you’re just showing up as authentic, then financial advisor is not a role you’re playing. It’s who you are.

So what are some assumptions that you might be making?

One assumption you might be using is “Oh, you can’t find good help anymore.” Another one is “What is with these young people today?” We all make assumptions. Well, how do you know if you can’t get good help? So you hire for values, and you train them, and you take the time to show them what to do. Another assumption you make is “I’ll never be truly successful.” When you say stuff like that, it might be because you haven’t defined what success is to you. Or you might have to get out of your comfort zone to find it.

Another block that we run into is interpretations. When you interpret, you create an opinion. When you create an opinion, then, by default, you’re ruling out all other options. So interpretation of situations — it’s a bit different than the assumptions, but you can see something, and you can just read it, and you can just make the absolute wrong interpretation of it. And that’s your truth; that’s how you see it, but that might not be really what’s happening. There are many situations where you can interpret something that might not actually be what happened. And that can impact how you see the world and how you see yourself. There’s true, and then there’s truth. There’s what’s true for you, which is not necessarily the truth. And so we’re trying to get to the truth of the situation so that you can move past it. These are things that can cause us issues.

I had a situation where I went on a joint call with an advisor. The first thing that the client brought up was “What am I getting for my fees?” And I’m saying to myself, Oh, great start. He is paying a lot of fees. He has a $4 million account, and the advisor’s first response was “Well, we’ll just lower your fee.” So that was the advisor’s reaction because his interpretation of the situation was that the client was saying he was paying too much in fees. That was the advisor’s “true,” but the real truth is that the client wasn’t recognizing the value of what he was paying for; the advisor hadn’t done a good enough job of demonstrating the value. So, it was a value recognition issue, not a literal “How much am I paying you?” He just wants to see what he’s getting for the fees that he is paying. Pretty simple. But the interpretation created an entirely different dynamic where we got into a whole discussion about how we can lower fees and how we can look at cutting costs, and that turned out to be the wrong thing. And long story short is the client’s gone. There was a failure to demonstrate the value being received for the fees paid. The advisor kept reacting to the initial question: “What am I getting for my money?” The client was saying, “I’m literally asking you, what am I getting?” So no matter how low the fees went, there still wasn’t a value recognition. And that’s just where an incorrect interpretation created a bad outcome for the advisor.

The fourth block is limiting beliefs. This is where we’ve either bought into something and this is our truth, or we’ve actually convinced ourselves about some idea, convinced ourselves that this is just the way it is. This is the way it is. This is something that you need to be conscious of and understand how this might be holding you back from what you want. Some simple examples might be: “Successful people are just lucky” or “I mean, honestly, I work hard, but those guys, they’re just lucky. They don’t work any harder than me” or “Leaders are just people who just tell people what to do.” Can you think of some limiting beliefs that you have?

Take a few minutes and jot down your reaction to these four inner blocks to see if you can come up with some examples of where you caught yourself faced with one of these four energy blocks and how you may have benefited from taking another look at some situations. I encourage you to really take stock of these things and how they might be holding you back.

Imposter complex

Now the second set of inner blocks I want to talk to you about is something called the “imposter complex.” This is something that I know even the top producers in our industry have. Everyone probably has some of level of it.

One of the symptoms is procrastination. Does anybody here ever procrastinate? Have you ever wondered why you procrastinate? Aren’t we all professionals? Aren’t we all at some level of specialized education? Haven’t we been in the business a while? We get an opportunity, and we just sit there. And, in my own case, it was always the bigger the opportunity, the longer it sat. I was wondering, Why is that? Why am I not acting on this? Why wouldn’t I want to just go get that as fast as possible, make that happen? Some people do. They don’t procrastinate. The way I got around it was, I delegated a lot of stuff off my desk so that I didn’t have to procrastinate, because I found that I was the clog in the pipeline because of my procrastination. My procrastination came from my impostor complex.

Another thing that comes with the imposter complex is relentless second-guessing. We’re constantly thinking about stuff: Gosh, I wish I would have done it differently. Why’d I do that? Maybe I should do it this way. I was going to do it this way, but now I’m thinking I’m going to do it that way. So I’ll just procrastinate a little bit longer until I figure it out. And, boy, this gets to be a real issue. Nothing’s happening. We set our goals low enough so that we can make them in spite of ourselves, and we stay in our comfort zone and our fixed mindset. So the next time you procrastinate, just step back for a second and say, “Why am I procrastinating? What am I missing?”

Another symptom is guilt. Does this sound familiar? Come on, I have to believe some of you have guilt. Where’s it coming from, and why? What are you guilty about? Is it something that you said? Maybe it wasn’t quite accurate. I’m not going to accuse anybody of being unethical, but maybe there were some things that you could have disclosed a bit more about the situation. Maybe you feel guilty about being successful. Are you asking yourself if you are even allowed to make this much money?

Sometimes we feel guilty because we’ve actually had some success and we think, Do I really deserve this? Is it OK for me to make a $25,000 commission on this transaction? And so these feelings can create self-sabotage and can keep us from actually trying because we don’t want to have that feeling.

Another symptom of the imposter complex is people-pleasing. This is a big issue for people in the sales business. People-pleasing is part of this because you’re not confident about who you are due to the impostor complex. And you will do things for people so that they’ll approve of you and like you. It’s a common issue in our business because we really want people to love us, right? We love our clients, and we like it that they love us so much. And that’s a great feeling. For many, that’s why you’re in it. That’s why a lot of people don’t ever leave the business — because they have such a strong need to have clients love them all the time. The problem comes when we have too many clients we shouldn’t have just because this is another person to love us even though they don’t really make money for us.

Another symptom is fear. Fear will stop you in your tracks if you have the impostor complex. “Boy, I’ve got a chance to do something big, but I’m just too afraid to do it. I can’t do it. I just know I’ll fail.” Or, worse, you’ll succeed! Then what? We all have fear. We don’t always fess up to it.

If you have experienced any of these feelings or issues, you might have some level of impostor complex. And it’s just a huge energy drain on you. When you procrastinate, you feel guilty because you haven’t gotten back to the people. You don’t get back to the people because you’re afraid that they’re going to not buy. You don’t know if they’re going to approve. Or you feel the need to make modifications so that you can please them. And you can see that you’re dealing with a vicious cycle. They might find out who you really are. Or that you’re not as good as they thought.

Pretty scary stuff!

So I’m going to go through a few lies that we say to ourselves when we have some level of the imposter complex. Lies we tell ourselves when we have the imposter complex:

  • “My self-doubt is proof of my inadequacy.” Sometimes it’s just proof of your humanity, not your inadequacy. The fact that you even doubt yourself just proves you’re human. That’s just a fact. So, if you get in a situation where you doubt yourself, then it’s just because you’re human.
  • “Successful people don’t experience this.” Well, that’s not true. Because Tina Fey has it. You’ve probably heard of Tina Fey. You’ve probably heard of Maya Angelou. You’ve probably heard of Stephen King, the horror story writer. These people are among a list of just hundreds of famous successful people with this. These are people who are highly successful, but they’ve learned to manage around it. They’ve learned to recognize when they feel this. They go to the source and say, “Why am I feeling this? What’s behind this?” And then they move forward.
  • “I’m not ready. I’d love to do this, but I’m not ready.” I always say to do it anyway. Even if you’re not ready. Because the fact is, you’re ready enough. Most of us are ready enough. Yes, you need training. Yes, we need education. Do we want to stretch our minds and get better at what we do? Yes. But we’re ready enough to show up as we are.
  • “I’ll never be able to pull it off again.” That was a one-off. And that’s where you’re considering yourself as a one-hit wonder. So then the next time you’re saying to yourself, Well, I’m just glad I did it the last time because I’m never going to be able to do that again, that’s a sign of the imposter complex. But the fact is, if you did something once successfully, then you can do it again successfully.
  • “It’s just a matter of time before all this comes crashing down around me, all the success that I have managed to achieve.” The question is, what if that wasn’t true? What if the other shoe wasn’t about to drop?
  • “I have nothing useful or original or important to say.” Sure. That crossed my mind a few times when I was preparing for this presentation. But we all have something to say. Because whatever your way is, that’s the right way. And when you realize that just your being authentic and showing up in front of your clients for their benefit is enough, that’s the right way. And unique is good. I heard someone say it the other day, “Being unique is better than being better.” We live in a world of commoditization. And we all look alike to consumers. Everyone is charging 1 percent for managed money, and everybody has the same life and health products, and everything’s becoming levelized. How are we going to differentiate ourselves? Unique is good, so be confident and accept that.
  • “I can’t trust the praise of others.” Well, this is where you have to dare to believe it when they tell you how amazing you are. People will tell you how good you are just because they think you’re good. And you should buy into that and believe it.
  • “Asking for help is for losers.” It shows a sign of weakness. We’re afraid to ask for help, so we just sit there and struggle. But the people who care about us really do want us to succeed, so we need to let them help us succeed.

How do you see the world?

So, when I talk about this, I’m talking about the attitudinal levels of perspective. This is adapted from the seven levels of energy, created by Bruce Schneider of iPEC. These attitudinal levels of perspective are the lenses through which we see the world. This is how we view the world. These act as our filters. This is how we respond to situations. This is how we respond and react to stress and stressful situations. And our energy levels come from this. They either attract people or they repel people. Think, the law of attraction.

For instance, if we show up in the world as a victim, if we see everything as somebody else’s fault, then that’s going to put off a certain kind of energy. And we all know people like this. We all have people like this in our lives who are a drain on us. But we also know people who naturally lift us up.

There are seven levels.

Level 1 is victim. The dominant thought is that the world is happening to me. Anything that happens is happening to me. I’m at the effect of what’s happening. And you see people walking around like this, and they have a lethargic type of an attitude or are apathetic. They feel a lot of guilt. They have a lot of self-doubt. “What’s the point?” because “What can I do about it anyway? I’m indifferent.” And the dominant thought is I am going to lose, so what’s the point? Level 1 is a negative type of energy. It’s what we call “catabolic.” Catabolic is a negative type of energy. And it’s a drain on us. It’s a drain on other people. So when we show up like this, we go through life in a catabolic state. People don’t want to be around us. You don’t even want to be around yourself when in this level of perspective.

Level 2 is about conflict or struggle. Sometimes when we get down to Level 1, and we’re feeling the effect of life, and everything’s happening to us, and there’s nothing we can do about it, we get angry or we could have conflict where we push back. “I’m not going to take it anymore. I’m going to do something about it.” And then we go straight to anger, and we get into conflict. And then the dominant thought becomes Well, I’m defiant. And now my attitude is I’m going to win, and you’re going to lose. An easy example is when somebody has cut you off in traffic. Your dominant thought is not Oh, no. After you. No. Your dominant thought is Yeah. I’m getting worked over here. That guy cut me off, and I’m angry. And now I’m going to go and cut him off. And so you can see how that’s what can happen in a stressful situation.

But when we get into these higher levels, we’re getting into more of a response versus reaction kind of energy level.

Let’s review Level 3. Now we’re in anabolic or positive energy. Now we’re starting to realize that “Hey, you know what? Some of what’s happened to me is my responsibility. I’m accepting responsibility and being accountable for my way of managing this situation. And I’m also looking to compromise, and I want to cooperate.” The dominate thought here is I want to win, and hopefully you win too. And at least you start thinking, Maybe I could have handled that better; I probably could have thought about that in a different way. So let’s see how we can work this out. I’m still going to win, but hopefully you win too.

Level 4 is a service mentality, where we have concern for others. Using the car example, let’s say that somebody cuts you off with his or her car; your immediate response is “This is happening to me, and I’m angry about it.” And then, all of a sudden, you stop and say, “That person has a higher need to get to where they want to than I do, or they’re just a jerk. Either way, I’m letting it go; I’m putting them before me. If they want to go, let them go; maybe they’re late picking up their kid from daycare or something, and who am I to get in the way?”

So, this is where we have concern for others, and we talk about compassion and empathy, and the dominant thought here is the other person wins. We see this lot in your business. We are service-minded; we want to help other people. If we’re parents, we want to put our children before us; if we have a good relationship with our partner, we know that we want to help him or her first. This is about putting other people before you, and the dominant thought there is They win. That’s all I’m really caring about right now.

And, just for the record, these energy levels fluctuate up and down and all around throughout the day. Some people just seem to always be happy, and they’re always relaxed, so those people spend more time at higher levels of energy and attitude. They’re looking at the world and saying, “Yeah, we’re going to work it out, and it’s going to happen” and “Oh, you go first” and “Let me do that for you.” And others are, well, not quite that way. And so we resonate and fluctuate mostly positive all throughout the day except for when that car cuts us off; then we go straight to Levels 1 and 2. The trick is, how do we get off of that quickly? Because if we stay down at those lower levels and we see the world like that, then we are hurting ourselves, and we’re not very pleasant to be around. Then you’re that person who walks into a room, and everyone’s energy is being drained — you’re the drainer.

So we all resonate at a low level sometimes, usually in stressful situations, but the trick is, how do we move off of that? How can we open our mind up and say, “You know what? Here’s a situation where I can probably work this out so that you can win.”

And, even better, we go to Level 5, which is about reconciliation, where we’re really trying to work things out and with no judgment. We’re just happy and at peace and at this level of attitude, and we’re thinking, We all win or nobody wins. So now we’re really thinking teamwork. And we see this in high-functioning agencies. Everybody’s on the same page, we’re moving forward, and everybody’s trying to help everyone else because there’s no point in doing what we’re doing unless we’re all going to win and benefit from this.

Level 6 is where we go into synthesis or intuition. Here there’s a state of joy; there’s an attitude of just appreciating where we are and what we’re doing. It’s a level of wisdom. It’s a level of “Everybody always wins,” where you think that as long as we can help everybody move forward in life, then everybody’s winning.

And the last and highest attitudinal level is Level 7. Here we talk about nonjudgment, absolute passion and genius thinking. Do you ever have those flashes of brilliance where you thought of something or you’ve said just the right thing in a client meeting? Or things just flow when you’re talking to people or your relationship’s going really well? It’s probably because your attitude has changed at some level. And what’s really cool about all this is, once we know about these levels, we can constantly move ourselves up. It’s learning to control our response, not just reacting.

I’ll tell you a story about an example of this. My wife and I were playing golf at a nice resort course. It was on a Friday afternoon, a beautiful fall day. We had the golf course to ourselves, just the two of us. It was the best. Nobody behind us, nobody in front of us. So we were playing fast and pretty well. And we were really enjoying being outside together. All of a sudden, I drove my cart around the corner to the next tee, and there were probably six or eight golf carts sitting there and a bunch of young guys with beers and cigars. Oh man. What level do you think I went to? I quickly went down to Level 1 — “Look at what’s happening to me. Ruining my golf day. My beautiful round of golf is now going down the tubes because of these guys.” And then I got angry very quickly. So I was thinking, These guys! I’m not putting up with this. I’m in Level 2. I’m going to do something about it. I’m going to call the pro shop, and I’m going to get angry. They wrecked my day. They’re not supposed to have all those carts out there.

But then I remembered I’m a coach, and I’ve had this training. So I recognize I’m at Level 2. What’s the next level? Level 3. Compromise. What is the situation here? What’s the interpretation of the event? The interpretation of the event was “Oh, you know, it’s Friday afternoon, and this place is famous for weddings. Hmm. I wonder if that’s a bunch of guys in a wedding party having a little bachelor outing. And all the girls are back at the hotel getting their hair done and getting ready for the big rehearsal dinner. And here are these guys having so much fun out there. They’re young guys; they’re just having an awesome day.” So there were only four more holes. And I was thinking, Gosh, what am I? A grumpy old man? And I’m going to call the pro shop and just break up their good time? That didn’t seem right. So then I moved to Level 4, where I started thinking, Well, let’s let them take their time. I told my wife, “We’ve got beer in the cooler. Let’s just relax for a little bit.” We opened a beer, and we sat there. We waited about 10 minutes. They went up ahead. It was awesome. I shifted my energy to a place where I could be happy. They could have what they needed. And I recognized they were just having fun. It was a big weekend for them. And I remembered all the times that I did that when I was young and when we were in that stage of life.

So that’s just a quick example of how you can shift your energy, how you can stop and reinterpret a situation, how you can jump off of assumptions and move forward.

I know I’m talking a lot about life situations right now, but can you think of how this could work in a business situation as well? Because I really believe that there’s not a lot of difference between the two. And if you can get to a place with your clients where you can open up and be this vulnerable to people, and you can let them know who you really are, you will attract a lot of people who want to be near you. People will want to be near you. We can’t live at Level 7 because that’s for someone like the Dalai Lama. You’d be walking around in a robe and maybe no shoes. We mere mortals are a little bit more high maintenance than that. But it’s something that we do experience from time to time, and we can recognize that we have these moments. Sometimes they’re in group situations, and sometimes they’re in creative environments, but we will have this kind of experience where everything’s just going great. How about at this Annual Meeting? When we are all here, feeding off of each other, it is practically nirvana. We’re not thinking at all about winning or losing. Truly Level 7 awareness.

At what level do you see yourself when things are going well, and then what levels do you go in when stress occurs?

Shift your mindsets

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” — Carl Rogers

Now I want to share seven mindsets of success. If you can change your mindset, even a small shift in your thinking can have a huge impact on the trajectory of your future and a big influence on your success. Mindsets come from your truths based on your values. And we buy into these things and we believe them, but, in some cases, it’s to our detriment. They can be limiting. Controlling your mindset is key to having the things that you want in life.

So far, we’ve talked about how we see ourselves and how we view the world. Now we’re talking about how we think and how that could be holding us back.

No. 1, it is very important that we stop trying to please other people. It’s a problem we have as a society. You would think we’re in a self-gratification environment. But a lot of what we do is to avoid conflict or to receive validation from other people. I’m not talking about customer service. I’m talking about giving up your own values and giving up your own needs and violating your own boundaries about what you accept and what you don’t accept. And this is especially true with our prospects and clients. So you’re trying to run a business. How many people are running appointments at 7 p.m., 8 p.m.? Or on weekends? I’m wondering, What’s the “why” behind that? Is it because you don’t want to tell the people, “Oh, we’re open from 9 to 6; I can take you at 6”? Because you’re afraid they won’t be happy with you and because you want to please them, especially if they’re already clients?

So there are many reasons why we do it. But here’s the problem: We talk to a lot of people as prospects when we shouldn’t because we’re trying to people-please, especially when we’re prospecting, and we keep a lot of clients when we shouldn’t. We do this, and we let them run us ragged, creating overwhelming busyness, and then what happens is, we try to segment our book. But we’re incapable of segmenting our book of business because that would mean providing different levels of service to different people, and we just want to love all our clients the same. And it’s just easy to do the same thing for everybody. So you can’t segment because you might not please some other clients. So everybody gets the newsletter; everyone gets a discounted fee. Everybody gets four meetings a year or six meetings a year, and, all of a sudden, you have this business that is controlling you instead of the other way around. You also give up a lot of profit when you do this because when you’re not segmenting your book of business, you’re losing profit. You’re providing the same level of service for people who don’t generate the same levels of revenue. So when we have higher-revenue clients, we can give them a higher level of service, which is what they’re paying for and what they usually require. But we don’t have to provide the same level of service to somebody who bought a policy from us 10 years ago. But yet we do. And so it’s all around people-pleasing, and it causes us to be inefficient. When you operate like this, it’s hard to create a process. We end up with 100 one-offs in the practice, with everybody getting a little bit of a different service so that we can keep them happy. “Well, he likes this spreadsheet this way, and she likes it that way, and he likes to come in on Tuesday night, and she likes to come in on Saturday morning.” And then you’re just running all over the place. That’s not really a business, certainly not one I would want.

So how does this sound? You have a business where you have defined hours, you have a defined market, and you can build a process around the things that need to be done. Then you can delegate tasks, you can automate processes, you can outsource some functions, and you can be very efficient. And you can provide the appropriate level of service to the appropriate people so that you can actually make a profit. Doesn’t that sound better? You can also have a life. You can be home for dinner with your children if that’s important to you, or you can take time to exercise — and I know some of you haven’t been to the gym in 10 years. Why? Because you’re running 8 p.m. appointments on Tuesdays? Why are you doing that?

I’m not standing in judgment. I’m just saying there could be a better way, and I’m suggesting that you find out what’s behind it. If the only reason you’re doing it is just because you don’t want to get the rejection or reaction from your clients and you don’t want to risk them leaving, then, most likely, that’s not really a good reason. I just want you to examine why you’re doing these things.

This next mindset is, for me, the most important one. We live in a world of sameness, especially in the insurance and financial industry, and what really got me thinking about this was when we were facing the DOL Fiduciary Rule in the United States, when everybody was pretty much charging the same fees, and everybody had gotten the same disclosures, and the marketplace became super flat. How do you differentiate yourself from other people? What if somebody says, “Why should I go with you when I can go with her?” How do you answer that? What’s your value proposition? We have to be completely clear about how we provide value. I think it is so important that we’re able to articulate our value to our clients. And we’ve heard it before, that the value is you, or the value proposition is X or Y. The story I told you about the client who was lost — he didn’t recognize the value because they didn’t do a good enough job of articulating the value to him.

So, who are you? What are you known for? What problems do you solve? What makes you different? What gets you excited? What makes you an expert? And what’s unique about you? And if you can go through them and truthfully answer these questions, I think it will be very helpful.

I’ll share with you what my value proposition was when I was an advisor. I developed this when I was in the coaching program. My value proposition was simple. It was this: “Our firm provides value through leadership, relationship and creativity.” The leadership is where we provide direction for our clients. And we provide perspective about what’s happening and why it’s happening. That’s the leadership aspect of it. The relationship is all about integrity and trust. This is where our clients knew instinctively, and through our demonstrations of how we worked with them, that we were always putting them first. That we would put their needs before ours. And that the relationship was very foundational in that sense. So we put that as a high priority in our value proposition. And then the third thing was creativity because the creativity allowed us to help our clients maximize whatever opportunities they may have. We took a 360-degree view of their situation. We didn’t just come out with the TV mass marketing financial guru method of “This is how you have to do it” or some similar one-size-fits-all mass marketing boilerplate method. We would look around the challenge and think out of the box and say, “There may be a better way for you.” We don’t always pay off mortgages. We don’t always put that much money down on a house. We don’t always invest bonds only in retirement plans. There might be different reasons to do different things, so we would walk around that. So “leadership, relationship and creativity” was how we communicated our value to people.

The other part of that was, we talked about things we can control and things we can’t control, especially in the investment arena. I would always tell people, “There are five things we talk about in investments: four we can control and one we can’t.”

We can control taxes, to some degree, and we can manage to that. We can control cost by choosing low-cost providers in various arenas. We can control risk through asset allocation and diversification, insurance. And we can control, or at least influence, behavior. If we can influence your behavior, we help you make good decisions, avoid bad decisions, especially in markets like we’re having now. So those are the four things we can control: cost, taxes, risk and behavior. One thing we can’t control is performance because we don’t control the Fed, we don’t control who’s the president, and we don’t control Brexit. We don’t control China. We don’t control the stock market. So why in the world would somebody hold himself or herself out, and sit down four times a year with somebody and talk about performance? I never understood it. Yes, we have to address performance. But we won’t get into that wisdom conversation because of the imposter complex and because of these other blocks and insecurities that we have that won’t allow us to accept that we have wisdom, that we are wise. Even if you’re not long in the tooth like I am, you can still have wisdom because of your unique personal experiences.

We should avoid like the plague talking about price or product performance. That’s just a straight commodity, and they have very little value at the end of the day. People ask us about it all the time because that’s the only thing they know to ask us. So we have to take a leadership position around this whole value proposition. And we have to be the ones to come in there and ask them, “Why?” What’s their “why”? “Why are you working so hard? Why are you working 80 hours a week in your company? Where are you going with this? What’s your life plan? What do you want in the end? What’s your ‘why’?”

We should be taking a high-altitude view of the situation. When we get up at 30,000 feet in our thinking and we see how things are from that view, it’s tremendously valuable to clients. And not many people are talking to clients about this. They’re too busy selling their performance and their product and their features. And I always get people up there at 30,000 feet and start talking about their “why.” And as soon as you know a client’s “why,” then you’ll know your “why.” It’s just that simple. I think its super important because when we’re all charging 1 percent, and when we all have the same products, we need to be able to differentiate. And the way you differentiate is by understanding what you truly have to offer people that’s unique and valuable to them and being able to artfully communicate that to them so that they recognize it.

Decades ago, before I started in the coaching program, I would take a pound of third-party materials with me on every meeting because I didn’t have confidence. I thought I would impress people that I had all this backup material. So I did a survey where I asked my clients what was my unique value to them. And about 90 percent of them wrote back one word or one phrase. Things like “I knew within five seconds that I could trust you” and “The minute I met you I could trust you.” Can you imagine what that did for me? It made me realize that all I had to do was show up and be me. That was good enough. Yes, I had to work. I had to do the work. I did the work. But I didn’t have to try so hard upfront. In fact, it was off-putting to people when I came in with all that stuff. So I highly recommend you take some of your clients out to lunch and ask them some “high-altitude” questions if you’re trying to build deeper long-term relationships. If you’re new in the business, go to some people whom you have a real rapport with, and ask them these questions. And tell them you’re looking to have long-term relationships and you want to build it on a good foundation. You want to make sure you’re providing value to them. And even if you’ve been around for a long time, I think it’s huge to go back and have these meaningful encounters with clients.

The third one is accept that failing is the secret sauce of success. You can’t succeed if you don’t fail. So let’s connect back to who we are and what we want. Why aren’t we going after it? Why can’t we talk back to our gremlin? And why do we procrastinate? Because the thing is, we’re afraid we’re going to fail. So that keeps us from even trying. But the more you fail, the closer you are to succeeding. So we know that we’re going to fail, and we’re going to fail often. The greatest hitters in the history of baseball hit what? .350. Not even four out of 10. So why should you be any different? Why are you going to bat 1,000? You’re not. So let’s just get used to the fact that there are going to be some strikeouts as far as the process is concerned. That’s where I put the “gracefully” part in. Don’t turn your life upside down because it didn’t happen. Just learn to move on. Learn to fail gracefully, and move on to the next thing because that means you’re closer to what you really want.

This next one is a big one, I think. We need to be prepared to walk away from the wrong prospects in order to save space for the right clients. There’s a practical limit to how many people we can take on as clients and service and give them really what they need. Of course, we can multiply our capacity if we’re building. We can multiply our capacity through delegating, outsourcing, automating, all those things that we do in our practice to give us more capacity. But, practically speaking, you only need so many people if they’re the right people. Then you can build systems around that. And the more you focus, the more you hone in on what you really want, whom you want to work with and what your value to them is, the more successful you will be. And you can be authentic. Then you can just show up as the real you and build your process around it and build your systems. Then you’re going to build a business that can provide value for you and your family. Try to replicate your Top 10 people, your Top 25 people. We’ve heard about this before. But that’s the principle. I remember years ago, I went through my book of business, and I think the bottom 45 percent of my clients generated about 5 percent of my revenue. And I loved those people because I’m a people-pleaser, and they loved me. And everything was good until I realized how it cost us so much money and profit to have them. So I carefully reassigned them to the right level of service. Some were assigned directly with the home office, some directly with the investment company and some to other advisors who were looking to start their business and maybe hadn’t specialized yet. I didn’t just cut them off and fire them. I gave them a new home! Then, all of a sudden, I had the right kind of people who generated the majority of my revenue, and then I could build systems around that.

Next mindset: There is no endpoint to success, only incremental steps forward. Once we define success for ourselves, we have to accept that it’s not a destination. Success is not a place you get to. It’s always a moving target, and so we want to celebrate the little accomplishments that we have along the way as we move toward this ever-changing, ever-rolling target. It’s a rolling target.

And along those lines, there’s no such thing as perfection, only progress. I got this from the Strategic Coach program, and it got me thinking that perfection is a cause of procrastination. It’s because we want it to be perfect, so unless it’s perfect, we don’t do it, or we just put it off until it’s perfect, but it’ll never be perfect because there’s no such thing as perfection. And that’s the truth in business, and it’s the truth in people. No one is perfect. We know that. We say that all the time, but, for some reason, in business we expect perfection. I’m not talking about accuracy. Obviously, we don’t want to be inaccurate or incorrect, but perfection is this other thing. And we all tend to be focused on this perfect world, this perfect scenario: “When things get lined up perfectly, then I’ll be happy, and then I’ll be successful.” And that’s just never going to happen because it’s just going to keep rolling and rolling and rolling. We are talking about mindsets here. Just make a small 1-degree change in your trajectory, and it will have a huge impact later on. Go through and rethink some of these issues and how they impact your business and where they might be showing up in your life. You might get closer to your idea of success.

And, then, the last mindset is to relentlessly pursue the release of control. I heard this years and years ago from the main stage of a NAIFA national conference. MDRT Past President Reggie Rabjohns made this statement, and it really stuck with me. What does that mean? Relentlessly pursue the release of control. Well, control is really just power, and so think about how many people you know — maybe you do it yourself — who’ve got to touch everything in their business. Now, I’m not talking about the kind of control where the husband holds the remote control of the TV, and then the wife and kids can’t ever touch it. That’s a joke. But, seriously, giving up control means giving up power, and it means delegating authority to people. When we give up control, we are passing control to someone else. We are empowering others. When we give control to other people, then we are empowering those people.

So it’s very important when we can give up control in all areas of our life, but let’s think of it in terms of our business. Tell me if this sounds familiar to you: “We are afraid to delegate because only we can do it right” or “Somebody might mess it up, and, if so, then there’s a problem, and now I have to fix it. But secretly I love fixing things because I’m a fixer, and that’s my job, and that’s what I am good at, so I can put out some more fires tomorrow” or “I’m so busy that I can’t get home, and somehow my day went by, and now I have a late appointment on Tuesday, and oh my God!” It becomes this whole vicious cycle. And a lot of it comes from just trying to control everything. So I’m just raising your awareness on this. If you can look for areas in your life where you can release some control and help empower other people, I think you will find some space for yourself to actually focus on what’s most important.

As I told one of my coaching clients, it’s really very simple. Most of you have many of the same skills. You have awesome social skills, you’re intelligent, you have experience, and you have education. If you can just focus on going out and engaging your social skills, your people skills, your education, your experience, your knowledge and your wisdom, and you can just bring that to bear upon people who trust you, then you will become a very influential person. Because influence is what fills the void when you give away the power. You become influential. Delegate the power and control to other people, manage them and the process, and then you will become influential. I think it’s a better role to play. You can get more done, and it’s of much better quality. And that’s very meaningful and valuable. And, if you can do that with your staff, then you’ll become an influential leader in your organization and in your community. Focus on that. You don’t have to be in charge of everything. Relentlessly pursue the release of control and get your life back.

I’m hoping at the end of this that you will start thinking, I could make some changes in my life that would be very powerful, all the way around, changes that could be very impactful on not just my business, but on my own happiness, my own perception of self, the way I show up in the world. That has to have a positive impact on the people around you, and including, maybe especially, your clients, which is what we’re talking about today.

Making the change

Now we are going to run through a couple of exercises. We are going to work on making the actual change. As financial advisors, we are in a unique position. We’re change agents. We talk about politics and the legislative challenges; we know we can be change agents in that arena, but you’re also a change agent in the arena of your clients, and, as such, we can also have a positive impact on the world. If just a few people started thinking about the world as a different place, in a different way, then that has a ripple effect. And Lord knows we need to think about others a little bit more. So now we’re going to talk about the “how” because we’ve been talking about everything else but the “how.”


Well, how will that work? How will I do that? How will I afford it? This is how most ideas and projects start out. But we don’t really need to worry about that right now. Instead, I’m going to give you some structure for goal setting. It’s called AIM SMART goal setting. And, also, I’m going to run you through a mission statement exercise.

AIM SMART is a process for setting goals that contains acceptable, ideal and middle goals. It’s based on Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable and Time-oriented goals. So that speaks to the SMART part. This is not a new concept, by the way. I’m not sure many of you have heard about SMART goals. But SMART goals have to do with the quality of the goal that you’re setting. It’s not good enough just to say, “Oh, I’m going to lose some weight” or “I want to make more money.” We have to be specific about our goals. So, hopefully, you’ve got some ideas for some goals, whether they are big life goals like the five that I shared with you, or whether it’s a smaller goal, or whether it’s an intermediate goal, like making Top of the Table in four years. Regardless, you need to be specific about it. You can’t generalize. It has to be measurable.

So, let’s just stick with the MDRT goal. We know there’s a one-year period of time, starting in January, and we know exactly what the number is that we have to accomplish, right? So that’s two SMART criteria, and you can check those two boxes. We know it’s achievable. I think it’s achievable to do that level as long as we decide on what needs to be changed, what needs to be added or what needs to be done to achieve that. It has to be reasonable. OK, so is it reasonable to make MDRT from zero to the end of this year? That might not be a reasonable goal. But is it reasonable to say, “I’ve got six months left; I’m getting myself into position to make some real changes so that next year I can achieve this goal”? Whatever it is for you, whatever goal it is, as long as it meets these criteria, it’s something that you’re going to have a chance of achieving. Time-oriented: And, again, it’s putting a limit on it. So you can’t just say, “Well, someday my goal is to be Court of the Table or Top of the Table.” That’s not a real goal. That’s just a wish or a dream or an intention, but it’s not a goal. It needs to be specific, measurable, achievable, reasonable and time-oriented. So as a first step to setting goals, we added this AIM piece. Let’s use an example of going to the gym. My goal is to get to the gym. And we already know that my specific goal is to lose 10 pounds. So getting to the gym is an acceptable goal. What’s the acceptable absolute minimum thing that I can do? Well, I’m not going to the gym now, so if I went one day, that’s the minimum I could do. The ideal would be if I could go five or six days a week to the gym. That would be ideal. But that’s not reasonable given the way things are set up in my life right now. So what’s the middle? The middle is I could commit to going three days a week, so it’s a matter of getting real about your goal. And this is the action part of it. Once we qualify the goal and have a legitimate goal that meets all those criteria, then we can go to the next step and do the AIM part of it, where we actually put action in place.

Mission statement

I have to tell you that in this next exercise we’re going to do, whenever I do it in a group of this size, it sometimes results in a statement that is a bit nonsensical and maybe a bit odd.

But, most of the time, it’s quite impactful and meaningful. I think it’s fun, and I think it’s something that could be interesting for you.

Make four columns on a piece of paper.

In the first column, I want you to think of things that you want most out of life. List at least three things, at your core, that you really want personally and emotionally out of life. Just write down the first three things that come to you. It could be single words. It could be a two-word phrase. Whatever. Just write something down.

Let’s go through the second column. The second column is “Things I’d like to experience in my lifetime.” Write down at least three things that you’d like to see happen locally or in any aspect of your life in that column. It can be more than three if you think of a few things.

In the next column, write in three things that you believe make you unique. List at least three things. What are your gifts? What do you think is unique about you?

And, then, in the last column, write three “improvements or positive actions that I can undertake in my life in the next two weeks.” So list at least three things. And the way to do it is to complete the statement “I can … [do what?] in the next two weeks.”

The next thing you need to do is to circle one item in each of those columns, the one thing that you instinctively are drawn to. Or if you only wrote one thing, then it’s that thing.

OK, now the fun part. Now I want you to complete the following sentence:

“I will [write in whatever you circled in column 4] using my [enter what you circled in column 3] to accomplish [what you circled in column 2] and in doing so also achieve [what you circled in column 1].”

OK, so this where it sometimes comes out kind of disjointed. So it might seem odd. The idea here is to just have a little fun. End on a high note.

So if you feel like you made one that didn’t make sense, just do it again. Just do it again now that you know a little more about how the exercise works.

Let’s reflect on a couple of things before we finish up. The whole idea of this presentation is to get you to think in terms of a bigger picture; to think about setting your goals a little bit higher; to acknowledge your fear, acknowledge your procrastination, acknowledge your inner blocks. Take a look at how you perceive yourself. Give yourself a break. Catch yourself when you make an assumption. Catch yourself when you say something that’s judgmental. Take another walk around it, and see if there’s a different way to think about it because it might free you up. I think the more we can get to a place in life where we can just show up as who we are and be just vulnerable and just be our real selves, believe it or not, people will love that.

People love when you are just the real you. They can tell when you’re just playing a role. They can tell when you’re just trying to sell them something. We all know that. People know when they’re trying to be sold. The idea is to create a situation where we are so comfortable with ourselves and so aware of what we have to offer in terms of our value that we will attract the kind of people that we want to have, because if we’re true to our values and we set our boundaries around that, then we will attract the people whom we are supposed to attract. If you can get to a place where you get your business lined up so that all the people in there are just trying to help you move forward, and you’re trying to help them move forward, you know their “why” and they know your “why,” it’s a beautiful thing. You are going to get all kinds of takeaways from this meeting about how to increase your production and how to be more efficient in the office, close more sales and all those kinds of things.

Let’s keep these five takeaways in mind:

  1. In order to be truly successful, according to your definition, you need to get very clear about who you are, what you want and why you want it.
  2. The obstacles to your success are mainly between your ears. You can turn these obstacles into opportunities by focusing on what you can control and letting the rest go.
  3. How you see the world affects how people see you. Your energy will attract a like energy. Learn to control this, and you can attract what you want.
  4. A fixed mindset limits your potential and your growth. A growth mindset opens up endless opportunities for you to succeed. Be willing to let go of the beliefs that no longer serve you.
  5. Your success is ultimately defined by your core values, as those values will be how you assess yourself and measure your success. All actions you take will be driven by what you naturally feel is most important to you and what you will be willing to fight for at all costs.

So remember:

Your “who” is your foundation. It’s based on your core values. That’s the starting point. Who you are is defined by what struggles you are willing to endure, what things you are willing to tolerate, what boundaries you are willing to set.

Your “what” is your mandate; it’s your mission. What you want will be defined not just by your desires, but by what pain you are willing to suffer and what is most important to you according to your values.

And your “why” is where the passion comes from; it’s the fuel that helps you accomplish these goals.

All actions taken will be driven by what you naturally feel is most important to you and what you will be willing to fight for at all costs.

The passion that comes from that fight is going to propel you through your inner blocks. It’s going to remove those barriers for you on the way to achieving your next level of success, the next level of success according to your definition.


Steven A. Plewes, CLU, ChFC, is a 32-year MDRT member with four Court of the Table and 10 Top of the Table honors who has spoken at numerous MDRT meetings. He has served on many MDRT committees, including as the Divisional Vice President of the Member Resources-Practice Management Division in 2017.


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