Making use of momentum

Challenging times can expose a world of weakness, and yet that same uncertainty is responsible for necessary innovation.

As a parent, spouse, professional, friend or family member, we are all feeling a sense of restlessness right now. There isn’t a corner of our lives where we can go without feeling stretched thin emotionally, mentally or physically. Markets continue to fluctuate. Politics rage on, fueling further division and unhealthy rhetoric. All while a pandemic ravages the country.

If you dwell on it for too long, it’s easy to let it all be an excuse for throwing your hands in the air and surrendering: a reason to retreat into complacency, personally and professionally. I see it tempting firms everywhere right now, as advisers seem more drawn to simply surviving rather than thriving.

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, taught me why this mindset is a deadly decision for entrepreneurs. He had some surprising advice about adaptability.    

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to attend the 2017 Iron Bowl, an annual college football game between Alabama and Auburn. Spending several hours on ESPN’s GameDay set was a bucket list adventure for me, but it was the surprise appearance by Tim Cook that forever changed the way I thought about habits and momentum. Tim ended up spending about two hours in conversation with us, but it was a subtle confession he made toward the end of our chat that struck me as a valuable leadership lesson.

Tim admitted to repeatedly looking for the home button on his new iPhone X. For those of you who have — or had — one, you know this was the first generation of iPhones that didn’t sport a hardware-like home button. Here he stood, one of the most successful, innovative, well-regarded business minds on the planet, admitting he was guilty of a somewhat silly habit that he found hard to break, ironically, a habit that involved a product at the center of the very company he led.

I don’t share this story to poke fun at a well-respected billionaire. Quite the contrary, actually. I tell of this little conversation to teach a lesson about the habits we form every day and how they guide our behavior. Yes, old habits can often be hard to break, but what about the habits we’ve fallen into so thoughtlessly? For example, what about the new routines we’ve undertaken while working from home and social distancing?

Research has long held it can take anywhere from 21 to 30 days to kick — or form — a habit. Most likely, we’ve seen habits form or disintegrate more quickly than that over the past several months. Whatever those habits or routines are for you, I urge you to be aware of the subtle temptation of conventional thinking. These last five months have convinced me that too many advisers are out there defending what they know instead of embracing the unknown and using it to push themselves to be better.

As the face of our profession continues to change, only those most adaptable to change will thrive. Yes, some will get by and survive, but many will also throw in the towel. The true competitors and innovators in financial services will be the ones who are using momentum to their advantage.

[More: 5 ways to achieve healthy innovation as an adviser]

Momentum is a funny thing, especially in times of uncertainty. It can turn you into a freight train of innovation or let you slip into a spiral of decay. It can spark a change in behavior or unconsciously guide your finger to keep looking for that old home button.

A few pieces of advice to help you manifest your momentum:

  • Take inventory of your willingness and your drive.
  • Dive into those business challenges with an open mind.
  • Reflect on the anchors holding your business back.
  • Create an environment among your team that encourages new ideas and rewards them for coming up with new solutions.
  • Celebrate the small wins and use them as incremental inspiration for the bigger things ahead.

Now more than ever, advisers have a window of opportunity to decide how they will harness the wind in their sails. And trust me, the wind is blowing.

Will this time fill you with optimism and a hunger for opportunity, or will the momentum push you into doing what you’ve always done? I don’t know about you, but the former is far better for myself, my business and most importantly, for the clients we so wholeheartedly serve.

[More: Positioning yourself post-pandemic]

Ron Carson is CEO and founder of Carson Group, which serves advisers and investors through its businesses: Carson Group Coaching, Carson Group Partners and Carson Wealth. Follow him @RCHusker.

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