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Path to Mastery: What Alex Honnold’s Free Solo Climb Can Teach Planners About Creating Conditions for Success

My husband rock climbs, and he introduced me to Alex Honnold a few years back. Honnold is a free solo rock climber that climbed the 3,000-plus sheer face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in 2017—without ropes. By definition, a free solo is a climb without ropes. It’s just you, your bare hands, your shoes and a chalk bag.

It’s beyond words impressive that Honnold accomplished this feat. But what’s truly mind-blowing is that he did this climb—which takes serious climbers with ropes 3 to 5 days—in a blistering 3 hours and 56 minutes. Mind blown.

It’s a performance like Honnold’s that captivates me and that I’ve always sought to understand and replicate. If he can overcome the very real risk of death to climb a rock, why do so many advisers struggle to achieve their goals, much less perform the kind of kick-assery that Honnold and other top performers achieve? I mean if he can climb a near mile of sheer rock with his bare hands, surely you have what it takes to double your practice and take time off.

Honnold’s Success Model

Honnold’s 10-minute Ted Talk has lessons for us all. It’s not obvious, but when Honnold describes his path to mastery, he’s following the success model we use in coaching: mapping, mindset, methods, momentum. Success leaves clues, and when you follow those clues, you get a front-row seat to the thinking, strategies and habits that create the conditions for success:

  • Mapping: Honnold describes how he set the goals for and approached two very different climbs and the difference it made in his performance. The first climb that he expected to be easy was a struggle, and the climb everyone said was impossible was almost effortless. If he can do this, you can create clarity with your Vision and Goals and a map to guide your efforts with a Business Blueprint. What do you envision for your practice and for your life? Create a list of clear goals for all areas of your life—business, family, friends, personal growth, health, finances, recreation, romance and physical environment. Be very clear what you want. Then work on your blueprint.
  • Mindset: Honnold talks about his mindset and learning to lock his fear away. He speaks of how his quest for mastery included spending countless hours of mental preparation using visualization, repeatedly envisioning thousands of finger grips in his mind to condition himself for a perfect performance. If he can do this, you can face your practice with a new level of confidence by creating a mindset reset and mastering the 7 Mindsets of Success I have shared many times in both my speaking engagements and on the FPA Coaches Corner.
  • Methods: Both rock climbing and financial planning have best practice methods that shortcut the path to mastery. Honnold does not reinvent the wheel when it comes to tying knots or setting anchors (he uses ropes when practicing his climbs). He doesn’t buy the cheapest equipment, and he’s part of a close community that collaborates and supports each other. Mapping and mindset are essential ingredients, but you can’t make a masterful cake with mediocre methods.
  • Momentum: There’s no missing Honnold’s momentum as he describes the journey from secretly wishing to conquer El Capitan to making the decision and forcefully applying all his energy and effort on that single goal. The sheer size of his goal required momentum of a magnitude the likes of which none of us has ever experienced. Momentum is the force and velocity with which you apply your energy and drives the timing and level of your results. Your momentum advances you in the direction you focus your attention, so focusing on what you want is paramount.

Implementing Honnold’s Success Model

So here’s the straight talk on stepping up and rockin’ it Honnold style:

  • Be responsible (stop making excuses). One of our limitless practice coaches, Matt Jarvis has an amazing directness about what it takes to be more successful, and I call this The Matt Mantra: “Don’t whine, just work.” Matt never makes excuses. He just does the work. He didn’t start out making real money and taking off 100 days a year. His journey to limitless success began when he got tired of disappointment and wanting more. Like Honnold, Matt has no room for excuses because there is no room for mediocrity in his business. You are more like Honnold than you know because while your consequences are very different, it’s as true for you as it is for Honnold: mediocrity kills. Explore these questions: What would your practice and life be like in a year if you stopped making excuses? What would it be like if you’d stopped making excuses 3 years ago?
  • Show up. Seriously, that’s the secret. Just show up in your world, engage and do the work. At some point, many of you have jumped in head first on the journey to excel and others are wondering where to begin. It is quite normal to feel equal parts excitement and overwhelm. Excited, because you know what’s possible and that there is a way to start making it happen; overwhelmed, because you have a full-time job, a busy life and now on top of all that you have to find time to learn and implement the ways to radically improve your business and your life and there will work involved. When you start feeling overwhelmed, your brain hits the brakes. We are all here to support you.
  • Progress, not perfection. This is a Dan Sullivan (co-founder of Strategic Coach) saying, and I love it. Let me be unmistakably clear: you will not always do all the work, you will not implement all of the new tools and ideas you receive and you will not be “done” at the end of 2019. It took me years to create the success I now enjoy, so while I’m giving you some serious shortcuts, it’s reasonable to assume it will take time to build the practice of your dreams. The good news is you don’t need to “do it all” to shift yourself into high gear and get great results this year. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, just breathe and eat the elephant one bite at a time. This gets a lot easier if you simply narrow your focus to the priorities that matter most to you.

I love studying Alex Honnold, and other people living The 5 Freedoms, to find and share the strategies and habits of top performance.

As I tell my children as much as they can stand to hear: your body can do most anything, it’s your mind you have to convince.

Stephanie Bogan

Stephanie Bogan is the CEO of Educe, Inc., and former CEO/Founder of Quantuvis Consulting (sold to Genworth Financial in 2008) and has spent 20 years consulting with the profession’s top advisory firms and enterprises. Educe is focused on helping financial advisors, entrepreneurs and executives build wildly successful businesses and lives that they love by expanding their mindset and business methods in ways that help them experience greater levels of success, happiness, wealth and well-being in their work. Bogan is a coach in the FPA Coaches Corner.


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How Financial Planners Can Make Summer Prospecting Enjoyable and Easy

The summer season sends many financial practices into the doldrums. Business-building efforts don’t stop completely, but they sure slow down. Clients might be away or not interested in coming to the office, and advisers and staff likely have days off or extended vacations booked. Summer days drift away from one to the next without much impact. Then September comes—and advisers realize the end of the year is going to arrive before they’re ready for it. And what were those business growth goals, again?

The Perfect Time to Prospect

This year, why not spend the dog days of summer building your business? Of course, have fun and enjoy some leisure time off, but also think of all the ways you can boost your firm’s visibility and attract your ideal clients. To help get you started, consider the following ideas—they will delight your community and are loaded with great prospecting opportunities.

Summer safety session. Schedule a summer safety session and invite parents and grandparents with young children. For example, a session titled “Keep the Kids Safe This Summer” could attract lots of people. For added reach—and a community event worthy of PR—invite a few guest speakers such as a pediatrician, lifeguard or water safety instructor. Whether you discuss sunburn, poison ivy, ticks or water hazards, a safety session can attract both clients and prospects. Take pictures, give small gifts of bubbles or sidewalk chalk, and you’ve got great talking points and pictures for your website and LinkedIn and Facebook pages.

Sports team sponsorship. Consider sponsoring a sports team for the summer. Think about it: your firm’s name and logo will appear on T-shirts worn by little kids trying to hit a ball off a tee or score their first goal in soccer. The pictures alone will make it worth the investment, as many towns put pictures of kids’ teams in local newspapers and on their websites. But you can do so much more:

  • Take pictures and put them on your website, with captions such as, “We’re proud to sponsor the Riverdale Green Hornets!”
  • Go to games and meet the parents and grandparents of the players.
  • Invite some of your clients to attend a game with you.
  • Sponsor a pizza party at the end of the season and mingle with the parents.
  • Bring popsicles or ice cream treats for the players and fans.

These simple activities can have a huge effect and get you talked about in the community, for very little expense.

Community events. If you’re a solo adviser or small firm, create an event for your clients that leverages a bigger event in your area. Many towns hold free summer concerts in a local park or show family movies on a big screen in a nearby field or stadium. Check out your local town’s recreation brochure or website to see what’s available, decide on a guest list and make your plans accordingly.

  • For clients with children, invite them to join you to watch family-friendly choices or the movie of the week. Tell them you’ll have blankets and refreshments ready and where you’ll be set up in the park. Bring coolers of soft drinks or ice cream novelties, have some boxes of movie candy and popcorn on hand, and you’re done!
  • For older clients, be sure you have lawn chairs available so that people will be comfortable, and bring some blankets in case the weather cools. If your town allows it, a simple wine and cheese picnic held outside while listening to music could be something your clients talk about long afterwards. And, of course, let your clients know their friends are welcome to join in the fun.

Ice cream social. Do you have a popular ice cream stand in your area? If so, invite clients to join you on a certain date and time and treat them to the ice cream of their choice. Yes, it really can be that simple! People are always looking for an excuse to get out in the summer, and who can turn down an ice cream cone? Especially one with sprinkles. Plus, you’ll be sponsoring a local business and having fun at the same time.

Putting Smiles in Your Posts

No matter what event you choose, don’t forget the power of pictures! Posting heartwarming photos of your events is an incredibly valuable way to spread your firm’s name and gain community goodwill. (Remember, you’ll need to get client approval for picture use, but most are happy to give permission.) Here are some simple ways to share the fun:

  • Post the pictures on your website, Facebook or LinkedIn page, or other social media platforms.
  • Send clients an email and attach a few pictures that they (or their children) are featured in. Your clients can post the photos to their personal Facebook pages—and hopefully mention your firm.
  • Create a collage of the pictures from your event and hang it in your reception area or conference room. This makes a great visual for prospects.

Making the Summer Sizzle

Summer can be the ideal time to plant the seeds for future growth. With some careful planning and creativity, you can turn the slow days of summer into growth momentum for your business.  Kristine_McManus_2_lg

Kristine McManus is chief business development officer, practice management, at Commonwealth Financial Network®, member FINRA/SIPC, the nation’s largest privately held Registered Investment Adviser—independent broker/dealer. Since joining the firm in April 2014, she has been working with affiliated advisers to grow their top line through the introduction of various programs, tools and coaching. Kristine holds the Chartered Retirement Planning CounselorSM designation, a master’s degree from Pennsylvania State University, and a BFA from Adelphi University.


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How to Write Like Someone Might Actually Read Your Work

One of the tips I hear most frequently for those just stepping into the world of content generation is to start by creating content for yourself. While I agree with the general sentiment (some of my favorite pieces have been written primarily for my own amusement) and think it can be a valuable jumping-off point, many of us are tasked in the course of our work to create content that gets someone to do something. In other words, we are attempting to, at the very least, get people to read, view or discuss our work.

Content that falls into this category could be designed to get someone to buy something, attend an event or become a member of an organization, and it could also mean content meant to get people to think we’re smart and/or knowledgeable. Oh, you mean like “thought leadership?” No, I don’t. That term has lost all its value due to abuse and overuse. In my experience, most content labeling itself as thought leadership is a sad copy of something better that has already been produced, and as such, is actually “thought following,” and a waste of everyone’s time.

Anyhoo, getting people to consume your work can be even more difficult than creating it in the first place, and there are few things more frustrating than spending a lot of time on a piece that nobody reads (thanks for reading this, by the way). If this has happened to you, it can be tempting to either just stop creating content at all or, if you are forced to keep creating it, to start phoning it in (i.e., “Well, we need a market commentary to send to clients. I’ll slap it together in five minutes and send it out as a Word Doc.”). While understandable, if you get into this funk, you start thinking of creating content as a chore and a box that requires checking, and my guess is that your work reflects it.

To help you avoid the strange unspoken agreement that we as content creators can sometimes make with our hypothetical readers (“This won’t be very good, but I know you won’t read it anyway”), I wanted to share three tips that I use to help myself write content that includes the assumption that someone might read it—bonus points if they get something out of it—and have a good time doing it.

1.) Write Like You Speak

How you distribute content matters quite a bit in terms of making sure your audience sees the content. Creating content that engages, however, starts with the writing and editing process. If your content is dry, boring, aloof or cookie-cutter, it doesn’t matter how great your distribution plan is—your readers will look elsewhere for what they need.

One thing that sets content that I enjoy reading apart from the rest of the noise is when I can feel like I know or have met the writer or creator upon finishing the piece. The tone and personality of content is an area that still seems to get short shrift behind sexier topics like SEO and headline writing (don’t judge me—I love this stuff), but it could not be more important. Your readers need the information you’re providing, but they also need to engage with the person offering it. For this reason, drawing your reader in often requires letting them know you on a more intimate level, which can mean:

  • introducing vulnerability (i.e., “Here’s a mistake I made and what I learned from it”)
  • tying personal stories to your main points
  • adding jokes, sarcasm or other quirks of your personality throughout
  • taking a stance and/or including your opinion and analysis of facts and data provided

Or, all of the above if it works for you. I’ve found that interspersing these more personal items into my pieces helps me write more effective content (through the lens of satisfying objectives), and perhaps more importantly, that they make it more fun to write. I’m a firm believer that, if you’re not having fun writing or creating content, your audience will have even less fun consuming it.

I think that some of the best compliments you can receive as a writer are that you “write like you talk/speak,” or that something you wrote “sounds like you.” Finding your style and committing to using the same core tone and personality in everything you write takes practice and a lot of repetition, but it’s well worth your time.

2.) Read It Out Loud

You’ve likely heard this one before—the reason I’m bringing it up again is that it truly does work. One of the most common questions I receive from content creators, especially those tasked with writing about or for the financial services industry, is how to maintain any level of personality or unique tone when the topics themselves are overly technically complex or just plain dull. This industry and profession present a great challenge in this respect, and while injecting some vitality into the desiccated husks of certain pieces of content is far from easy, I do think it is possible.

One way to check your work on this is, when you have a draft ready, to read it out loud first to yourself, then to someone else. The act of verbalizing your work can be useful in a variety of ways:

  • First, it can help you practice and ultimately, master Tip #1 (writing like you speak).
  • Second, it can help you identify the areas where you need to add some qualifiers to simplify and clarify certain thoughts. While I overuse it in my own writing, I am partial to using “in other words” in these instances, as it sounds more conversational and primes the reader for a simple way to understand a complex concept. ASIDE: I’ve had well-meaning people try to tell me that if I’d just explained myself more effectively in the prior sentence, I wouldn’t need to use “in other words.” I’ve found this to be false in many scenarios in financial services, as it’s often important to use the language of the industry in the first thought, as that’s what the reader is most likely to see in other materials. Your qualifying sentence is to help them understand the language in a different way.
  • Third, it’s the best way I’ve found to ensure that content is conversational enough for your audience, and for the objective of the piece. If you’re writing an academic research paper or an instruction manual, you may not want or need to be very conversational, but if you’re writing a blog post, your audience is often expecting you to be talking directly to them. Reading aloud will help you identify the areas of your work that really lend themselves to a conversational style (i.e., something that you, or at least some human being, might actually say), and those that need some adjusting.

While you will likely be your own most valuable critic, finding someone who will be honest with you during a read-aloud session can be extremely useful as well. Sometimes, things sound better in our heads and coming out of our own mouths than they do to others, and you can avoid tripping yourself up by sharing it verbally with someone else before publishing.

3.) Edit, Don’t Sterilize

My last piece of advice on engaging writing is to remember that the small imperfections and quirks in your writing style are not necessarily bad things. I think some of these quirks make up an important part of anyone’s writing style, and not all of them should be eradicated through the editing process.

For example, guidelines like AP Style that provide excellent constructs to help us to be better and more consistent writers can also be limiting in certain cases. This is especially true when it comes to keeping pieces conversational, and I almost always err on the side of making pieces more readable over a take-no-prisoners adherence to style guidelines. Note: This is borderline unforgivable heresy to some people I know—Melissa, I hope you’re not reading this.

One of my favorite instances of this comes from the book Delivering Happiness, an autobiography by Zappos Founder Tony Hsieh. In the introduction to the book, Hsieh lets the reader know that he doesn’t consider himself a great writer, and that they might find his style jarring, but it was important to him that he delivered his thoughts in his own words.

True to his disclaimer, the book is not a work of classic literature by any stretch of the imagination. It is, however, my favorite autobiography, and the endearingly slapdash style of his writing is one of the main reasons why. I also love that he took a crack at writing the book himself instead of farming it out to a ghostwriter, as so many others have done.

You really feel that you know Tony Hsieh as you finish the book, and it’s primarily because he put pen to paper (or hands to keys) himself, sharing his unfiltered thoughts and failures so that the reader may learn some important lessons. It’s likely the same reason we sometimes like seeing shaky iPhone videos instead of studio-quality interviews—authenticity matters to all of us.

I’m not telling you to fire out a draft, then publish it immediately without any editing support. In general, the more smart people who look at your content before you publish it, the better your content will be. That said, don’t be afraid to gently push back on edits that change a thought in the way you wanted it delivered, remove a piece of your content that you think represents you and your style or sterilize a sentence that was meant to be more conversational. If you have the same people look at your work, over time, these discussions can help both you and those who are editing your work find that unique style that says, “Hey World, I’ve got something to say, and I’ve got a unique way in which to say it.”

Speaking of making content consumable, this piece is pretty long, so those who made it this far, I ‘preciate you. These tips have helped me, and I hope they help you wherever you may be on your content creation journey.

Dan_Martin_Headshot

Dan Martin is the Director of Marketing for the Financial Planning Association, the principal professional membership organization for CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM professionals, educators, financial services professionals and students who seek advancement in a growing, dynamic profession. You can follow Dan on Twitter at @DanW_Martin and on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/danmartinmarketing.

 

Disclaimer: Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (“CFP Board”), a 501(c)(3) organization that is independent of the Financial Planning Association, grants the CFP® certification to CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals in the United States.CFP Board owns the trademarks CFP® and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™.”