A Letter to Your “Self-cessor”

“First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do,” ancient Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus wrote. If you were to write a letter to a successor on the do’s and don’ts of your advisory practice, what would it entail? What are some moments in your past advisory practice that, in hindsight, you would keep, change or improve?

Interestingly, writing such a letter to yourself as the successor – or “self-cessor” – can be an effective way to improve your existing advisory practice. All it takes is some imagination and a little mental alchemy to write to an “inexperienced you,” charged with the responsibility of operating and growing your practice from scratch with the same enthusiasm, hunger and uncertainty of the road ahead.

The benefits from such an exercise will help you avoid repeating mistakes, which sets you up for future success. Whether in the long term or short term, there are cycles and trends to markets – as well as human behavior. Applying today what you’ve learned along the way isn’t always a “no brainer;” our minds tend to believe that what we’ve learned is only relevant to particular scenarios. Considering how no life scenario is ever identical, it is possible to miss an opportunity to apply learned experience, resulting in a repeated mistake. In other words, we tend to live in a constant state of cues, routines, and rewards, as stated in Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit.

Our brains are good at developing conditioned responses. However, we tend to block out painful or challenging experiences from our minds, holding onto only the experiences that produced positive results. This is simply the minds way of being efficient with its information storage capacity, and does not mean we are incapable of learning from challenges or mistakes. However, it is important to try and force ourselves to learn from our mistakes by writing down steps or principles. Hedge fund extraordinaire Ray Dalios’s book, titled Life and Work Principles, is full of lessons he’s gathered and written down for future use; a sort of public letter to his “self-cessor.”

This exercise also works your brain when you consciously retrace your steps through positive & negative scenarios, as well as the decisions you made, in your advisory practice. This mental exercise uses your past experience to reprogram your neuropathways and better prepare you for future cycles and scenarios. It sharpens your fight or flight reaction the same way thousands of hours of practice help an athlete win games. This should not be an obsession of thought, but simply mapping out the future growth of your advisory practice based on the past. Make sure you program a few “black swans” into your mental algorithm too, as well as what you would do in that circumstance. Unfortunately, the current state of the world is an example of a “black swan” scenario none of us saw coming; you can start here.

Clearly, it is of great importance to consider both successes and challenges as you draft a letter to your “self-cessor.” What did you do to win or lose your first client relationship(s)? What are you doing now to obtain and retain them? How did you prospect then, and is your new approach to prospecting/obtaining clients beneficial? Are you Building a Virtual Bridge to Clients or stuck in Dante’s InFollowUp? Where did you get your first referrals from and how are you getting them now? Are your models fit for your evolving client base? Are you leveraging the benefits of ETFs?

Simply retrace your steps through both positive and negative scenarios that led to certain decisions, with equal consideration for both. How can you develop new habits based on a shift in routines? What contributed to critical moments that took your practice to the “next level?” Was it the Tony Robbins or Jim Rohn audios you may have listened to on your morning commute? Ponder upon and share that imagination of scenarios once again as you write a letter to your “self-cessor” for the growth and success of your advisory practice.

Contact us for further growth tactics if you experience a bit of brain fog during this mental exercise.

Returns as of May 15, 2020.
Inception Date: April 4, 2017.

Index performance is for informational purposes only and does not represent any ETF. Indexes are unmanaged and one cannot invest directly in an index. Past performance is NOT indicative of future results, which can vary.  

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