Let’s be honest. Building a sustainable business as a financial advisor isn’t easy. There’s no question you need to be exceptional at what you do. But, are you exceptional in how you do it? Do you run your business like a true CEO? Are you a respected, inspiring leader to your team? Or, do these aspects of your business suffer because you’re stuck in a one-dimensional mindset?

We are at a tipping point in our profession. Advisors who begin to see their practice as a well-rounded business – and effectively run it that way – will gain something I like to call The Sustainable Edge. These advisors will control the competitive landscape in the short-term and set the standard for years to come. Look around you, and you’ll quickly realize the visionaries in our profession, as well as any other industry, are living by these nine nuggets of wisdom:

The First Secret to Success is… There is No Secret!

Even the brightest minds and boldest trailblazers understand they can never trace their success back to one secret. It’s all the little things done exactly right that have an astonishing impact on the world. Hall of Fame basketball coach John Wooden said it best, “It’s the little things that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”

Live Life by Design, Not by Default

I’ve been telling advisors around the country these exact words for decades. It’s amazing how many of us just wake up every morning and float through life without a burning desire. Connect your subconscious mind with a strong “why.” List the 6 Most Important things to accomplish each and every day, in order of priority, to hit the long-term goals you set for yourself. These goals should be defined with incredible clarity, painting a detailed picture of your future. Start 20 years out, notate your age, think about the stage of life for your children (where they’ll be), and write out every detail you can possibly imagine. Come back and do the same for 10 years, 5 years, and even one year from now. Before you know it, you’ll have memorialized a detailed document of the milestones that are meaningful to you – and more importantly, a clear destination to march toward.

You Can Be an Overnight Success…

…If you spend a lifetime preparing for it. Take Picasso as an example. I once heard the story of a man who walked into a café in Vienna and saw the artist sitting down at a table. He walked up and simply said, “Hey, you’re Picasso! Can you sketch me something?” Picasso agreed and entertained the man by drawing something up in just over a minute. Surprised by what he witnessed, the man offered to pay him for his time. “It’s free,” said Picasso. “No, I insist on paying you,” said the man. So, Picasso responded by saying, “Well, then, it’s $10,000 dollars.” “But it only took you 90 seconds!” the man said. Picasso smiled and responded, “Yes, but I’ve been preparing a lifetime to do it that fast.” Too many times, people live their entire lives amassing knowledge, but, when it really matters, they don’t have the confidence to charge for their value proposition. Believe enough in your value to charge appropriately for it, exuding confidence in the service you provide, because only then is “overnight success” more likely to happen.

Take Responsibility and Give Credit to All Stakeholders

You can’t overdo this one. A good leader shares the spotlight and is comfortable crediting others. While it might seem counterintuitive, being humble takes more self-assurance than basking in glory. Don’t be shy in recognizing accomplishments, taking ownership of failures, and giving credit to your internal stakeholders. Your team will appreciate it, and your clients will feel it.

Always Start Your Next S-Curve Before You Finish the One You’re On

As an entrepreneur, recognize your current stage of growth as well as the stage of evolution you’re about to experience. Be proactive in business planning, understand what changes are necessary in order to reach your next level, and get ahead of industry trends. Those who rest on their laurels in times of great opportunity are the ones who quickly realize their complacency has made them obsolete.

Develop a Passion that Pays

You’ll never work another day and you’ll make a bigger impact on the world. If you know your “why,” the “how” will present itself. Weave your passions and interests into your business, connect with clients who share those hobbies, and fulfillment is sure to follow. Life’s too short for anything else.

Take Care of Yourself

You must be selfish in order to be selfless. If you need proof, just remember the order in which airline attendants tell you to secure oxygen masks. First, secure your own, then assist others. This rule applies to many areas of life. You can’t be valuable to the people that count on you without first taking care of yourself. Exercise regularly, eat healthy, and you’ll take strides in being a more effective leader.

Get Enough Sleep

Read the book Power Sleep by Dr. James Maas. Enough said.

Continuously Seek Wisdom

I view my life as a bucket with a hole in the bottom. I frequently dump out the old and fill in with the new. Fresh, vibrant information constantly pours into the top of my bucket while the old, useless, irrelevant information drains out the bottom. Never fall in love with how you’re currently doing something. Those at the top of any successful business push themselves out of their comfort zone to learn and achieve more.

More than 30 years as an advisor has taught me several of these entrepreneurial lessons. Some surprised me along the way. Others, well, only time and experience could teach. No matter what stage of growth your business is in today, take these nine nuggets of wisdom and start running your practice with more purpose. Become a CEO who inspires others. And, never underestimate that how you lead as a business owner is just as critical as what you accomplish.

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