I was quite surprised by the news of the departure of Mohamed El-Erian from our neighboring investment firm the Pacific Investment Management Co.
Since we moved into our offices in the idyllic Newport Beach, Calif., commercial district (appropriately called “Fashion Island”), we have watched Pimco expand and consume thousands of square feet of office space around us.
Under Mr. El-Erian's co-leadership, the world's largest fixed-income manager grew and prospered. He was clearly being groomed as Bill Gross' successor and he appeared engaged and content when I'd occasionally see him coaching his kid's soccer team. His departure seemed somewhat abrupt for a company that tends to be quite deliberate in its approach to most things.
It got me thinking about what makes people change course, what motivates change and to question the purpose that drives all of us in our daily lives. How often do we ask ourselves whether we are satisfied with the path we are on and whether we need to change? How often do we actually check in with ourselves to ensure that our one life is lived in a way that is consistent with our values and our driving purpose? With the start of a new year well under way, and the first cracks in our resolutions already showing, it's as good a time as any to have a more introspective discussion led by three questions.
1. What's the Why?
It's fascinating how we often become automatic in our actions and our responses rather than deliberate and conscious in our decision making. Think back to when you started in the business and what it was you wanted to accomplish beyond making a decent living. We have asked that question of hundreds of advisers and by a landslide the most frequent responses are:
• To make a positive impact in people's lives.
• To be free to work as I want.
But for how many of us have our dreams come true? Here's the first suggestion on a few steps to ensuring you are on the right track. Write down why you get up every day and do what you do: What is your purpose and the purpose of your practice? What is it that most matters to you? Create an itemized list of priorities for you and your firm. Stick to the big stuff.
2. Are We Living the Why?
As time passes, the dream gets blurred by the reality and many folks don't take the time to stop and ask if they are actually accomplishing the “why” that got them motivated and gave them the drive in the beginning. Often, the everyday realities of building a practice overwhelm the priorities we originally strived for. So many advisers end up slaves to their practice, spending countless hours working on things they really don't like and are not well suited to do. Many end up frustrated and feel aggravated with their work balance after a few years. While we are almost all driven by a heartfelt desire to serve clients, many are faced with the reality of being pigeonholed into defending performance, or justifying fees. Instead of a deep relationship with all of our clients, often a select few end up getting our very best.
Many advisers do not feel a genuine sense of freedom, and are not sure they are making as much impact as they could in their clients' lives. So here's Step No. 2: Rank how you're doing on accomplishing the things that really matter to you.Give yourself a score on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being best) on how you're doing on each of the items on your list of priorities that you created above.
3. What Are You Going to Do About It?
It's not usually that complicated to resolve gaps in our priorities and our life once we have identified them. The challenge is taking the time to recognize them and having the fortitude to see it through. So here's the third suggestion: Take any item that you ranked six or lower and find specific ways to improve the score this year. Clearly articulate what actions you need to take to ensure that your real work life more closely resembles your ideal work life. Help anyone on your team that needs to contribute to solving the problem understand the “why.”
I suspect that Mr. El-Erain carefully thought about why the change was best for him, his family and the firm he helped to build. I am also sure that many of us could make adjustments in our lives right now to help align our actions with our purpose. Furthermore, is there anything more meaningful in your one life than striving to accomplish the “why” that drives you?
Joe Duran is chief executive of United Capital and the bestselling author of “The Money Code: Improve Your Entire Financial Life Right Now." Follow him @DuranMoney.