Lesson 34

Lesson 34: BHFM and The Stoic Advisor

Weekly Habits for Success - Daily Task to The Habits for Success

“You can bind up my leg, but not even Zeus has the power to break my freedom of choice.” —Epictetus


There is a fascinating statue of Seneca and Nero done by the Spanish sculptor Eduardo Barrón in 1904. Seneca is an old man sitting with his legs crossed, wearing a beautiful toga, but nothing ostentatious. He has a document he’s written, maybe a speech, maybe a law that’s about to go before the Senate, or maybe it’s the text of his essay to Nero, Of ClemencyHis fingers point to a spot in the text. His body language is open. He is trying to teach. He is wisdom embodied, hoping to instill in Nero the importance of the tasks before him.

Nero is sitting across from Seneca, wearing a hood, slouching in his throne. His fists are clenched, he’s looking towards the ground. His body language, right down to his crossed legs, scream, “I’m not listening and I want to this to be over with”.

Seneca is no fool. He can see that Nero isn’t paying attention and is not interested, but he doesn’t give up.

I used to wonder why Seneca just didn’t give up. Then one day it occurred to me while I was talking with one of my own children who clearly didn’t want to hear what I had to say. Seneca understood that he had a responsibility and he had to try, no matter how hard it may have been, to impart wisdom to this young man.

Of course, we all know the story of Nero and that Seneca failed. But that wasn’t his fault. Seneca did all that he could do. And that’s all we can do as parents, as spouses, and as advisors.

Worthwhile relationships with our kids and spouses need our regular attention, especially when the kids seem to not be listening (which happens more than most of us would like). The same is true when dealing with relationships. We must often give more than we get to foster a relationship that may be worthwhile in the end.

Your job as a financial advisor is to do everything in your power to make that prospect into a client, to remove all the barriers between you and them so it’s quite easy for them to say, “Yes! I want to engage your services.” But not all of them will.

So what does all this mean? It means that you have to become an expert at removing barriers between you and all people around you that are important. The better you are at removing barriers in your personal life, the better you will be at removing barriers in your professional life.

That’s why, as you may have noticed, this “habits of success” course isn’t just focused on your professional life, it’s focused on multiple aspects of your life. Just like you learned several months ago that “complementary talents” exponentially help you grow as a person, so do complementary skills in all aspects of your life. The way you do anything is the way you do everything, so strive to do everything well! Not perfect, just do it well!

NEW TASK: Identify a difficult relationship in your life, not a toxic one, and find a way to reach that person. It’s usually best to speak to them in their language and do things they’d like to do to at least to get their attention.

NEW HABIT: Practice speaking with people in their own language, just like you’ve been taught by BHFM in your interview and presentation process. It works both professionally and personally.