"'Beauty is truth, truth beauty — that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."
What a perfect ode to your valentine. I was given this poem as a young man, studying English literature in Zimbabwe. I remember being completely uninterested in having to memorize “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” How could the trials and tribulations of some hand-painted caricatures on the outside of an urn possibly be reflective on me and my life? But these lines, for some reason, have stuck with me the entirety of my life. The idea that the ultimate quest for all humans is truth — and when you see it, if it is genuine and real, everything can take a patina of genuine beauty — is simply inspiring to me.
It's especially interesting when you think about it from a professional perspective. Surely nothing could matter more to our clients than us seeing the truth and helping them to live their truth. Unfortunately, there are a couple of roadblocks that stop us from really living up to the promise and the beauty of truth.
DIFFERENTIATING OPINION AND FACT
The experiences we have growing up, and the way we've been treated and guided, give us a perspective about what's right and what's wrong, and what is true and what is not. Once they become ingrained in your perception of yourself and part of how you act, you tend to take it as gospel and unchangeable, when your entire perception might just be an opinion.
The truth is, we seldom differentiate opinion from fact in our personal lives. Whether you are a Republican or Democrat, you are going to take on an opinion that skews your perspective on any one issue based on the label you've given yourself. But that label is not you and it can be very helpful in your life to question: Is this in fact true, or is this an opinion? If that is true in political issues, how does it affect our roles as parents, friends and advisers? How often is our perception in fact the truth, rather than simply our opinion? How often do we acknowledge when we are wrong and accept that our perception is clouding our judgment?
APPLYING TRUE DISCIPLINE TO DECISIONS
There is no more important role that we play as advisers than helping people to make decisions that actually improve their lives. Unfortunately, we often think that the things that will make us happy are the things everyone tells us will make us happy — more money, a nicer house and better vacations. Certainly any one of those things can make us individually happy, but what if the cost to get them might make us miserable along the way? Our job as advisers is to see the truth in what will really help our clients and we cannot do that well if we don't know how to remove our own biases. We also cannot do that if we do not have an honest understanding of what really matters to our clients, their true purpose for doing what they do.
Ultimately, the most important thing we can do is help our clients live their one true best life. Not the one we think they should have, not the one society tells them they should have, but the one that makes them the happiest because surely nothing is more beautiful than living a life that is filled with happiness. And if this line from Keats' poem is true, then there is no easier way to find beauty than to start by being true. Happy Valentine's Day, may it be filled with truth, love and happiness.
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.