Am I The Only One?

by Bill Edmonds @nstarlead

Are you the only pink flamingo in your work group?

My friend Pete retired about a month ago from a thirty-five year career as a “wholesaler” in the financial services industry. He enjoyed his work, his colleagues, and most of all the end users of his offering – the financial advisors he served. His vocation offered a great living for he and his family and is now providing a very comfortable retirement life-style.

I answered a phone call from him last week with a typical “hello”. My greeting was countered by hearty laughter on his end of the line, followed by, “This is the craziest thing! People I’ve known in the industry are calling, asking for my help with out-of-the-box solutions to their challenging business problems. They’re asking me to provide them with the very non-conforming solutions that were rejected by my previous employer, and they even want to compensate me! Now all these people want to pay me for what I was giving my employer for free!” Lastly he said, “Bill, my employer used to say, ‘That’s not what we pay you for Pete.’ What’s wrong with this picture?”

Great question my friend.  What is wrong with this picture?

A pink flamingo is of no value to a black and white flock.  Perhaps “the devil wears Prada”, but pigs prefer mud.  Throw an exquisite handbag from the Italian luxury fashion house into a pigpen and you’ll notice that these large mammals don’t have an appreciation for Prada’s fine leather craftsmanship.  Fill the bag with corn and throw it in….now you’re talking!

Albert Einstein put it this way: “Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree, it will live it’s whole life believing that it’s stupid.”

How about this one: Michael Jordan – greatest basketball player ever…a genius on the court.  He retired from basketball in October 1993, and signed a professional baseball contract with the Chicago White Sox in February 1994. And why?  In a 2007, Sports Illustrated interview, Jordan said it was to pursue a dream his dad had for him to be a major league baseball player. Jordan’s career lasted only one season where he failed to move any higher than the Double-A minor league Birmingham Barons, rounding out the season with a batting average of .202.

It’s a good thing Michael Jordan’s dad let him play basketball.  And it’s a good thing he allowed young Michael to pursue his own dream, rather than limiting his son to that of his father’s. I’d like to think that somewhere along the way Jordan’s dad read the quote by Einstein.

What would the American workplace look like if people were hired not only for their ability to perform the task, but for their talents outside their respective job descriptions? For one, the employee engagement rates (studies show only 30% of U.S. workers are engaged in their work: see: Gallup’s Employee Engagement Survey) would increase, increasing productivity and profitability exponentially. And once they became engaged, what about trying to figure out ways they can bring their unique value to the company with new products, ideas, procedures, etc.?

Are you the only pink flamingo in your black and white office? Do you feel a smoldering discontent in your current role, even though you’re making great money? Living your dream or chasing somebody else’s? Batting .202 when you could be winning NBA championships? Still trying to climb trees with those fins of yours?

If so, it might be time to spread your wings (or your fins).  Why live and work in a black-and-white world when you were made for color?  Find your “why” – what you were created for…what makes you come alive – and go do it!  As great as the box was, my friend Pete is finding that his value might just be even greater outside of it.  How about you?

3 Resources for adding some color to your life:

#1 Reason You Need A Good Financial Advisor

Behavioral Finance 101

“The market is too high – get me out before it crashes!”

This is what Rudy said to me when I answered his phone call on December 2, 1996.  Within an hour, I received the exact same message from Edwin.  Neither of these gentlemen knew each other, but it was as if they did.

The S&P 500 Index closed that week at 757, up 25.1% from the previous 12 months and up a whopping 66.7% since the first week of December 1994.  Rudy and Edwin, both in their sixties, wanted to get out and take their profits, wait for the market to go down, then buy back at fire-sale prices.  That never happened.

Rudy and Edwin “got a hunch and sold a bunch”.  They acted on their feelings not the facts.

In the late fall of 1996, our Chief Strategist, Chuck Clough, was saying corporate earnings estimates were good and valuations were healthy.  Most of the “street” believed the same.  Even though the market had experienced a great run in the past couple of years, causing Rudy and Edwin to make more than they expected, it looked very healthy and we expected markets to move higher. The markets did in fact move higher, without Rudy and Edwin.

One year later the S&P was up 26.2%, and a year after that it had gained another 21.9%.  Rudy and Edwin never got back in because of a behavioral economics term called “loss aversion”, which refers to people’s tendency to strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains.  Loss aversion was first demonstrated by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, and suggests that losses are twice as powerful, psychologically, as gains.

Rudy and Edwin didn’t lose any money in the stock market, but they did lose opportunity.  They had planned to buy back into the market at lower prices.  They simply acted on their feelings, ignored the facts, and in doing so missed a lot of opportunity.  Both suffered from seller’s remorse and stayed fixated on the re-entry point that never came.

The fact that losses are felt two times stronger than gains, is a primary contributor to the stress level of Financial Advisors.  People hand you their life savings and say, “Make me money…and don’t lose any of it!”  A recent survey indicated that 83% of Advisors said shouldering the responsibility for clients’ financial futures created the highest level of stress for them (ThinkAdvisor.com).  I overheard one Advisor say recently, “Markets aren’t rational, and neither are my clients!”

Since many of our buying decisions are emotional, remorse can be a common after-affect of a purchase.  Regret over the 55″ TV you purchased may be real, but it’s much easier to get over than the bet you made to sell all your stocks and go to cash after the market plunged 50% in less than a year.  (This actually happened in 2008 – the S&P is up now over 130% since then)

What’s my point?  Investment decisions should be based on facts, not feelings.

I wish my efforts to convince Rudy and Edwin not to bail out of the stock market had worked.  The old adage, “The client is always right”, isn’t true.  But one thing is true, “The client is always the client!”  It comes down to the fact that it’s their money, and their decision.  We all feel euphoric and over-confident when things are going well for us, and we feel terribly inadequate and incompetent when our world is falling in around us.  Whether it’s investing, our job,  children, geopolitical events, etc., our feelings move us more than the facts.

That’s why you need a good Financial Advisor.  She will help you focus on the facts, and not your feelings.  A good Advisor will guide you away from index performance and toward goals based planning.  He will hold your hand when waters are choppy, and remind you of the long term reasons for your decisions.  A good Advisor will help you avoid the short term amnesia that accompanies difficult markets by reminding you of the truth.

The #1 reason you need a Financial Advisor…to protect you from you!  

Trust in the facts, not your feelings.  Trust in your Advisor not your hunches.  And avoid being a Rudy or an Edwin!

Check out these resources to find out more about how your emotions affect your behavior and why a good Financial Advisor can help you mitigate them:


Bill Edmonds is an “Outside-Insider” (an Executive Coach and Consultant), who works with market place leaders to help them reach their full potential in the areas of organizational and personal development. A former Financial Advisor and Market Leader, Bill spent 24 years with Merrill Lynch until his retirement in 2014, where he led a $100+ million per year revenue wealth management business unit as a Director with the firm.

What’s My Line?

The Power of Intentionality

Where do you draw your line?

A few years back my wife noticed a persistent beeping noise coming from the garage.  Upon further investigation she realized that it was originating from the control panel of Buddy’s invisible fence.  Buddy was our family pet at the time, a high-energy yellow lab.  The beep is a warning signal that is transmitted whenever the electronic fence has been compromised.  When the boundary was broken, Buddy’s shock collar no longer worked, and he had the ability to escape the confines of his half-acre playground, without a sharp pain to his neck.

But here’s the interesting part.  Buddy didn’t know the fence was broken.  And needless to say, we didn’t tell him!  For at least four days his fence didn’t work.  He continued to chase squirrels and birds at breakneck speed, stopping in his usual spots just a few feet shy of the place where an unpleasant shock usually awaited him.

Buddy is a dog.  He acts on instinct, not reason.  He knows where his boundaries are, and he refuses to go beyond them because of the unpleasant consequences that would occur otherwise.

We as humans have unpleasant consequences that await us when our boundaries are crossed.  Since we operate on reason, not instinct,  we have the constant temptation to compromise the boundaries in the six most important areas of our life; business, family, relationships, finances, health and our faith.  Once we cross the line in one of these areas, we would be delighted to trade the results of our poor decision for a hefty shock to the neck.  But that’s not an option.

Our boundaries are first compromised in our mind when we lose sight of our purpose in each of these six areas.  In other words, we lose sight when we neglect to be intentional.  When we fail to be intentional our habits and instincts kick in and we become purposeless.

Rx: Here’s the solution for staying inside your lines; either wear a shock collar (ouch!) or look at these six most important areas of your life, and ask yourself one simple question for each category: What is my purpose for each?

In her song, “There is a Line,” performed by Susan Ashton, you’ll find some additional advice worth following, or perhaps worth singing….

Within the scheme of things
Well, I know where I stand
My convictions, they define who I am
Some move the boundaries at any cost
But there is a line I will not cross
No riding on the fence – no alibis
No building on the sands of compromise
I won’t be borrowed and I can’t be bought
There is a line I will not cross


Bill Edmonds is an “Outside-Insider” (an Executive Coach and Consultant), who works with Financial Advisors to help them reach their full potential in the areas of organizational and personal development. A former Financial Advisor himself, Bill spent 24 years with Merrill Lynch until his retirement in 2014, where he led a $100+ million per year revenue wealth management business unit as a Director with the firm.


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4 Crucial Pieces of Advice for Advisors

“Talent isn’t enough. You need common sense and good advice. Don’t let what happened to me happen to you.”

 

These are the words spoken by Lewis “Hack” Wilson, a week before his death in an interview given to CBS Radio. The baseball great who made his Major League debut in 1923, went on to play twelve seasons in the big leagues. In his prime, he was the highest paid player of his day, yet he died penniless. Hack Wilson didn’t say, “You just need advice.” He said, “You need good advice.”

I have several advisors in my life – my financial advisor for investments and planning; my medical advisor (physician) for my health; my tax advisor (CPA) for tax planning and filing; my minister for spiritual advice. I want the same from all of them – good advice.

For me, there are 4 crucial ingredients that determine whether the advice I get from my trusted, professional advisors is just advice, or whether it’s good advice. Here’s what I need:

  1. Tell me Something I Don’t Already Know – What good is last week’s weather forecast? Tell me what I need to do to weather next season’s storm. Tell me something you think I would like to know. I like the fact that every time I visit my physician, he tells me about some new medical research and discoveries that can have a positive affect on my health, provided I take his good advice.
    • Question: What new, refreshing, helpful information are you sharing with your clients? Are you just going through the motions, delivering the same old stuff?
    • Advice: Dazzle me with something new!
  2. Remind Me of What I Do Know – Everybody is familiar with the old adage “use it or lose it.” It’s true. Last time the market went down 10% you called your financial advisor and said, “sell me out…I can’t take it anymore!” You lost it. She commenced to remind you that you have ten more years until retirement, and that you are investing for the long term in a quality portfolio. People hire advisors who are experts in their respective fields, because they “use it” everyday. If you use it everyday you don’t lose it.
    • Question: Are you reminding your clients of what they already know? Are you reminding them of the smart, thoughtful decisions they have made?
    • Advice: Don’t forget to tell me how smart I am, and remind me of the facts!
  3. Protect Me From Myself – But what if it’s outside my field of expertise? The great philosopher Forrest Gump once said, “Stupid is, as stupid does.” Caring individuals don’t let others do things that seem stupid if they can help it. If you’re a CPA and your client says, “I think I’m going to sell all my stocks, “short” the S&P 500 and become a chain smoker. You should say, “If I were you, I would not do that.” You are not speaking as investment professional or a health care professional, but as a professional who truly cares about his client.
    • Question: How involved are you in the lives of your clients? Do you know what makes them laugh, cry, and sing?
    • Advice: Be my life advisor, not just a dispenser of professional services!
  4. Tell Me the Truth – And that’s not the same as saying don’t lie to me. Sins of omission may pale to the sins of commission, but both are character issues. Some characters spend their lives leading people astray, while other characters are bystanders, not telling people the brutal truth that could save them from heartbreak or ruin, for fear of being rejected. I don’t’ want my minister telling me, “Do whatever feels right to you.” If the glass is truly half empty, don’t tell me it’s half full just because you don’t have the guts to be authentic. Tell me the truth – give me your expert opinion.
    • Question: How often do you disagree with your clients? Do they ever get mad at you for a brief period of time because you talked straight with them?
    • Advice: Look me in the eye, and tell me the truth!

Advice is plentiful, but good advice is profitable!


Bill Edmonds is an “Outside-Insider” (an Executive Coach and Consultant), who works with leaders to help them reach their full potential in the areas of organizational and personal development. He spent 24 years with Merrill Lynch until his retirement in 2014, where he led a $100+ million per year revenue wealth management business unit as a Director with the firm.


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7 Ways Nick Saban and Mark Richt Can Help Your Career

Lessons for Corporate Leaders from 2 Gridiron Greats

If you’re the head football coach of an NCAA Southeastern Conference (SEC) Football team, don’t expect much help with your career from Nick Saban. In fact, you should expect him to be a career saboteur.

Just consider the fate of Mark Richt, who was fired three days ago after he fell short of benefactors expectations, finishing the year with 9 wins and 3 losses. In his 15 year run as head coach of the University of Georgia Bulldogs, he won 74% (145) of his 196 games. Not bad, but not good enough to keep his job. The two time SEC coach of the year with 2 SEC championship titles and 6 division titles, has lost all his games against Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide since 2008, and has failed to deliver a National Championship to the Georgia faithful.

According to Yahoo sports writer Dan Wetzel, Saban is the reason Richt lost his job this past weekend and why Les Miles, head coach of LSU (2-7 against Saban),  almost followed in Richt’s footsteps.

So, how can Nick and Mark help you?  Neither are going to come to your office to be your one-on-one executive coach, but as the great philosopher Yogi Berra once said, “You can observe a lot just by watching.”  Here’s what I’ve observed by watching the “Saban Gold Standard” and its affect on the Division I NCAA monetary system. These are valuable lessons for all us leaders, from middle managers all the way to the C-Suite, corner office dwellers:

  • Lesson #1: Perform at a high level or be fired – that’s why they pay you the big bucks – Don’t long for the good old days – they don’t exist anymore. On December 3, 1957, The Tuscaloosa News reported the best football coach in the country, Paul (Bear) Bryant, had been signed to a 10 year contract to be the head coach at the University of Alabama for the hefty sum of $17,500 per year – approximately $193,000 in 2015 dollars. After ten years as head coach he had won about 80% of his games. In his next three seasons he won only 20 games and stacked up 13 losses, a mere 60% winning record.  But you don’t fire guys who make $193,000 per year just because they had a couple of mediocre years.  You do, however, fire guys like Mark Richt who make $4 million per year when they lose three consecutive times to St. Nick. Welcome to the big leagues!
    • Question: Do you long for the good old days of no air conditioning, covered wagons, outside bathrooms, morse code, pony express, etc?
  •  Lesson #2: Don’t expect an organization to be compassionate and sympathetic – expect it to be pragmatic – A few years back a colleague of mine was experiencing a discouraging time at work. He said to me, “The company just doesn’t value me.” He’s right. Organizations don’t value you – only people have the ability to value you. Organizations are impersonal entities whose cultures reflect the values of those in charge. The Institution or organization has no soul. It can’t laugh, cry or sing. Don’t expect UGA to keep Richt, a man of deep faith, a husband to the same woman for the past 26 years, the father of 4 children (2 adopted from the Ukraine), and a great ambassador for the UGA Nation, just because he represents all that’s good off the football field.  It’s about what happens “between the hedges”, and it’s about X’s and O’s, or better stated, dollars and more dollars!
    • QUESTION: Are you throwing a pity party because “the company” doesn’t treat you fairly? 
  • Lesson #3: Be thankful and count your blessings!   Don’t feel sorry for the loserCharlie Weiss, head coach at Notre Dame for 5 years and Kansas for 3 years, managed to compile a losing record of 41 wins and 49 losses between the two schools. He will collect  $18,966,867 from the Fighting Irish when it’s all said and done (SBNation article). It is also noteworthy to point out that Kansas reportedly still owes him $5.6 million on his contract buyout. Not bad for a loser. Chances are you’re making more than you ever thought you would, and to top it off, you’re living in the greatest country on earth. You probably make more money than your parents and experience a more affluent lifestyle, even after adjustments for inflation. I don’t feel sorry for Charlie and he doesn’t feel sorry for you.
    • QUESTION: Do you feel sorry for you because you haven’t won every game you’ve played between the corporate gridirons? 
  • Lesson #4: Make sure you can afford to be fired – Save for a rainy day. When I retired last year from my higher paying job to build my own business (a big initial pay cut), I had several colleagues my age and older, call to congratulate me and say they wish they could do the same thing, but could not afford to do so. That’s not good.  I think Richt will be ok. He seems to manage his money pretty well. He sold his lake house a few years back “to be in a better position to give and bless people that don’t have anything (Bleacher Report article).” And he has another $4.1 million coming to him from his contract buyout. At $7.7 million, Saban makes 157 times the average pay of a school teacher in the state of Alabama. I think he’ll be ok when he gets fired, too.
    • QUESTION: Can you afford to get fired? 
  • Lesson #5: The ride trumps the destination – enjoy the winning and the losing – I hope Nick Saban is having fun, but I really can’t tell. If he’s not, he should start. Studies show “that life experiences give us more lasting pleasure than material things, and yet people still often deny themselves experiences and prioritize buying material goods (WSJ Can Money Buy You Happiness?).”  A recent study from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, states that the lower a person’s annual income falls below $75,000 per year, the unhappier he or she feels. But no matter how much more than $75,000 people make, they don’t report any greater degree of happiness. If you’re making $75,000 you’re about as happy as you’re going to be.
    • QUESTION: Are you enjoying the ride – are you happy? 
  • Lesson #6: The best is yet to come if you have a plan for the next season You better have a plan when the ride is over. Don’t fool yourself – it will come to an end. Either you get fired or you fire yourself (retire or quit). Your plan should not be to make all you can and can all you make. It should be to make a life, not just a living. To make a difference – to leave the world a better place than you found it. I’ve heard interviews with Mark and Katharyn Richt and I can tell you they have a heart for the less fortunate of the world, and they give generously of their time and money. I look forward to seeing what’s next for them, because I’m convinced that they believe the best is yet to come for their family. There are two great books on the subject that I would suggest you read: Disrupt Yourself by Whitney Johnson, and Halftime by Bob Buford. Both of these books will help you plan your next career and/or life move. There’s nothing sadder than seeing the ride come to an end for a person who has no clue as to what to do next.
    • QUESTION: How about you – what is your next move? 
  • Lesson #7: If your primary identity is tied to your employer, you will be a loser when the fourth quarter ends – As long as there’s a Nick Saban in the room, the best you can be is a Mark Richt. Competition is a good thing and it serves leaders well, but I’ve seen it take down individuals, families and companies when beating the Sabans of the world becomes the only thing. What happens if you don’t beat them? What happens if you do? I’m sure Mark Richt would like to have a national championship trophy sitting on his mantle, but he has a healthy identity that goes beyond the title of football coach; husband, father, friend, mentor, man of faith, community leader, and difference maker.
    • QUESTION: To what is your identity tied?

There is much to be learned from the winners and the losers and the games they play. Winning is great, but finishing well is better. I think both of these great coaches are on their way to doing so. How about you?

Further Reading: “Why Hire an Outside Insider?”


Bill Edmonds is an “Outside-Insider” (an Executive Coach and Consultant), who works with leaders to help them reach their full potential in the areas of organizational and personal development. He spent 24 years with Merrill Lynch until his retirement in 2014, where he led a $100+ million per year revenue wealth management business unit as a Director with the firm.


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