One habit I learned near the beginning of my financial planning career catapulted me ahead of many people who should have had better careers than I. Before I tell you what it is, some background:
I graduated from college with a degree in English. I was the reason why they now tell people to carefully consider your major before just randomly heading to college. I had no clue what I really was aiming toward. I only knew that I was supposed to head to college. At some point in the future, I thought I might like to write. I also liked speaking into a microphone. Being on television sounded like fun. So did running fast enough to enter the Olympics. Party planning sounded right up my alley because I enjoyed logistics and setting up big corporate functions.
In other words, I had no clue what I was going to do with my life.
When I was hired on as a financial advisor, the guy who recruited me said, “We usually don’t hire people like you, but I think you’d be good at this.” That quote doesn’t inspire confidence, does it?
By “not hire people like you,” what Marcus meant was that they didn’t hire English majors who thought that both party planning and the stock market sounded “kind of cool.”
By “you’d be good at this,” Marcus knew (from working with me in college) that I was a relentless S.O.B. who would succeed through force of will.
As I studied for my tests I realized I was lost. There were a variety of exams I had to complete before I could advise others, including the Series 7, Series 63, the state Life, Accident, and Health exam, and a Variable Annuities test, among others. I didn’t know an annuity from an IRA, but didn’t let the phase me. Nights and weekends I studied. I listened to financial radio shows and read books. Most had little in common with what I was learning, but the surround sound helped. In the end, I passed my tests.
But this was just the beginning.
I love it when people moan that their workplace doesn’t train them adequately or doesn’t provide improvement ideas. It’s not your bosses’ career. It’s yours. Sure, your boss will take credit for your awesomeness at stacking benjamins, but you’re strong enough to carry her on your shoulders. It’s fun to bring others along on your success ride.
Back to my story: I’d passed my exams, but now I had to lead clients. I possessed a basic understanding of the tools, but didn’t know people’s buying habits. I didn’t know sales. I didn’t know the varieties of applications that each of these tools might be used to provide freedom or comfort for a client. In short, I still didn’t know shit.
So here’s what I did:
My day was full from beginning to end. I had no spare time anymore to catch up on my lack of knowledge, so I created time. While other people were talking about the football game or their golf prowess at lunch, I was reading Dave Ramsey. While people drove home to music on the radio, I had books on tape by Suze Orman, the Motley Fool and others.
So, I ate and read. My books ended up with salad dressing and burger juice on the pages. Big deal. Whenever clients mentioned a strategy that I’d never heard of before, I grabbed a magazine. This education was priceless. I could see the results in my success. I was beginning to move toward the top of the first year advisor class. What was a little salad dressing?
Was that the grossest thing I did…eating and reading? Not hardly.
I still needed to move faster.
I needed bigger results. I couldn’t stop learning. I had to find out everything possible. That’s when I began my gross habit. My co-workers laughed at me. People would roll their eyes when they saw me coming.
Here it is: I took books to the bathroom and read. Call it multi-tasking. Call it whatever you want. However, I know that part of the reason I was able to sell my business for a big number was those trips to the toilet carrying Tom Peters, David Bach, or Nick Murray’s latest tome. What I learned with my pants around my ankles made me tons of money.
So here’s the lesson, Stackers: Find that little extra nugget. Flush away your frustration with your job. Relax on the throne of knowledge you’ll accumulate by using every possible moment constructively. Unless you want to just be someone else’s grunt, make the effort to push forward and learn everything you can.
Yes, I AM enjoying myself, thank you.
PS – Please nominate Stacking Benjamins for a Plutus Award at the award nomination page here. Nominations just opened yesterday and I believe we’re qualified in three categories:
– Best Multimedia for a Personal Finance Blog (Stacking Benjamins Podcast)
– Best New Personal Finance Blog
– Most Humorous Personal Finance Blog
Thanks for your support of this blog and podcast. In a short time we’ve really come a long way. It’s hard to believe we launched in early June!