June 16, 2021

Writing the History of the Future

A couple of otherwise unrelated things from the past came back together for me recently at the perfect time and in the perfect way.

The first was experiencing the premier of the SEC Storied Film “Hold the Rope” about my college baseball coach, Skip Bertman along with the man himself and a room full of former teammates, friends and family.  If you haven’t seen it or think it doesn’t even apply to you in the least bit, I’d encourage you to DVR it and invest the fifty-one minutes it will take if you fast forward through the commercials.  While it was personal to me because I lived it, it will still be a meaningful story for you – one of a unique individual who used his power of visualizing the success he wanted and achieved it many times over.

He passed on two critical things to me that were passed on to him by others:

1) “If it is to be, it is up to me.” – my code of personal responsibility that is imprinted in my brain and written as the first entry annually in every year’s new black journal.

2) “Whatever you vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe, and enthusiastically act upon must inevitably come to pass.” – my reminder that the future is not something that just happens to us by accident.  We get to make it up and then work to make it real.

I have never lost these lessons, but I have also gone through chapters in my life where I let them get covered up with busy work, pushed to the background, or just not intentionally given them their due each and every day. Not coincidentally, those are also the chapters where I started to feel unmoored and looking for my footing.

The second thing is that I stumbled upon our Vision 2020 business plan from January of 2015 while looking for something else and it pulled me down the rabbit hole to see how we had done by the end of 2020  vs. what we said we wanted to do a full 6 years earlier.

I was amazed by how much we accomplished or exceeded the things we wrote down back then.  Even though some of the details turned out to be different, many of them were spot on, and the results were almost exactly where we thought we would be.  It was a case of “the battle plan is only good until it meets the battlefield” and then you adapt and adjust.  We did just that, and if it could be boiled down to a game, we figured out a way to win even with different players, changing circumstances, a few challenges and some tweaks to the strategy when faced with opposition.

I know this sounds like a pretty basic message that you have heard over and over: decide what you want, when you want it, and what you need to do and are willing to do to get it.  That is Goal Setting 101, right?  True, true.  The problem is, so few people actually do it, and that includes most financial advisors.  Almost the entire population stumbles forward and takes whatever the universe dishes out to them, and then asks themselves “How did I end up here instead of there!?

While most people can easily pick numbers as goals that represent growth from where they currently stand, numbers by themselves will fail to inspire you (and especially your team) when challenges arise.  Pictures and visions are great as well, but even they can be hard for others to grasp and may seem a little “out there” or ridiculous to you or you team at times.  The best approach is probably some combination of the two – not just the measurements and milestones you want to strive for, but the qualitative factors as well.  What will it feel like, why do you want it, what does your team look like and what do you do for fun to celebrate the wins together?  As I have said on many occasions, “you can’t chest bump yourself!”

Maybe there is no right way to do it, but what has worked best for me is to put myself into that future time and use my imagination to think vividly about what has to be true for me to feel happy, accomplished, confident and successful with the growth we’ve experienced in between now and then.  In a sense, you are writing the history of the future the way you want it to be and just like any other type of creative writing, the more detail you describe it with the more those images sear themselves into your unconscious mind where they can be worked on even while you are sleeping.

This is a key distinction…you are not projecting forward what you hope happens, or what you wish possibly could happen.  You are in fact writing in past tense about what has already happened because you put yourself into the future and are now turning around, looking back and telling the story about what you experienced.  I don’t know why or how, but that makes it real for me in a way that thinking forward does not.

With 2020 in the rear-view mirror, I am intently focused on the next 10 years of growth and progress.  You can pick whatever time frame suits you, but I would say give it at least 3-5 years at a minimum.  Whatever the case may be, imagine that you are already there and your income, assets, client mix, team structure, office set up, work schedule, personal accomplishments, etc… have already been achieved.  Now turn around and ask yourself these questions and write down the answers:

1) What were the biggest changes in your organization that allowed this growth to happen?

2) What capabilities did you add to your team, internally or outsourced, to reach these levels and who was the first and most important “Who” you turned to for help finding them?

3) How are you specifically spending your daily work time in this bigger organization that is producing these bigger results?

4) What were the three biggest things you had to delegate in order to grow to these levels?

5) What were the first three most important things that you did that got this whole process started toward the bigger future you’ve enjoyed?

Trust me when I tell you that 2031 will be here before I know it and I will be 65 years old that November.  That’s easy enough to figure out.  What takes effort is seeing “that guy” as “me” right now when I am “only” 54.  Although some of the details are crystal clear, some of it is a little fuzzy to be honest and I am spending a lot of time homing in on it as we speak.

But I do know this:  “That guy” knows me really, really well and he is a “grateful dude” because he knows that I am the guy who wrote the “history of the future” he is now enjoying.

Might you do well to give your future guy or gal that same gift by writing the history of your future?  It might include retiring and selling your practice, it might mean you buy that vacation home, or take your team on a special retreat somewhere.  Whatever it is, it is your future to write as you wish.