The Principles of Passionate Financial Planning – Thomas T. Brown

Thomas T. Brown is the founder of Business Jungle Enterprises, a consulting firm serving financial planning professionals. He is the former owner of a successful financial planning firm in California, and the author of Zebras Don’t Wear Pinstripes—27 Indispensable Laws of Survival and Prosperity in the Business Jungle.Perseverance is the ability to continually move toward the achievement of a goal or objective—it’s one of the most important attributes of successful people. If perseverance is one of the most important attributes of success, then you may ask, “What’s the most important attribute of perseverance?”


Passion is the driver of perseverance. Passion is the state of mind that creates the incredible will to persevere. Think of it this way: perseverance is like a rocket ship that can propel you to the top of the financial planning profession, and passion is the rocket fuel. Your missile will never leave the launch pad and reach the stars without the proper fuel.Finding and maintaining passion is one of the fundamental building blocks of success. It also may be your biggest challenge as a busy financial planning professional. Here are four principles you can use to find and maintain your passion for financial planning.

Passion Principle #1: Discover Your Noble Purpose

If passion is the source of perseverance, then what is the source of passion? Scott Kays, CFP®, of Kays Financial Advisory Corporation in Atlanta, Georgia, says that the source of passion is found in the answer to this question: “What is the purpose I am here to achieve?”To uncover the answer to that question, Kays advises planners to envision themselves at the end of their career and ask, “What was the one thing I was supposed to achieve during my career and how well did I achieve it?” The answer can become the purpose that you focus on today and work to achieve for the rest of your career.That “one thing” you should achieve during your career as a planner can never be defined by anyone other than you. That one thing that you should aspire to achieve is called your Noble Purpose.Louis Barajas, CFP®, is the founder of Louis Barajas & Associates, serving the Latino community in southern California. Barajas has discovered his Noble Purpose. “I want to be the catalyst that brings financial enlightenment to this Latino community. I believe that if I teach people about planning their finances, I will empower them to create the resources that will allow them to achieve their fullest potential.”When Barajas becomes discouraged or frustrated trying to build his practice in this highly nontraditional market, he remembers his Noble Purpose and it inspires him to persevere. Here’s a 15-minute, five-step exercise you can take to help you discover your own Noble Purpose. All you need for this discovery exercise is a yellow pad, a pen or pencil, and some privacy for deep reflection.

Step 1. Make a list of some of the mundane tasks you perform each day—answering e-mails, making phone calls, writing a plan, reviewing an investment statement, and so on. Allow yourself two minutes to make this list.

Step 2. Remember that by virtue of completing these tasks you can solve your clients’ most challenging financial planning issues. Think about how your clients feel when you have presented them with a financial plan that will allow them to achieve their financial dreams. Make a list of what you think those feeling are—gratitude, relief, excitement, whatever. Spend two minutes on this list.

Step 3. Now make a list of your own feelings after you present that financial plan and experience how it makes your clients feel. Do you feel proud, satisfied, professional, or something else? Take another two minutes to make a list of your feelings.

Step 4. Keeping in mind the emotional responses you listed in steps 2 and 3, write down the essence that underlies everything you do in your practice. This is your Noble Purpose. You should be able to state it in three or four sentences. For Louis Barajas, it was to be a catalyst that brings financial enlightenment. What is your Noble Purpose? Take two minutes to write it down.

Step 5. The final step is to share this Noble Purpose with everyone who is important in your professional life: your co-workers, spouse, clients, mentor, referral sources, and so on.

When you’ve completed this exercise, you will have defined your Noble Purpose. It will be expressed in a short statement that declares who you are and what you stand for. Post it where you can refer to it easily and it will serve as a motivational fuse. When you feel your passion dwindling and your perseverance waning, reflect on your Noble Purpose. It will light the fuse the re-ignites the fuel of your passion and propels your rocket ship forward.

Passion Principle #2: Directing Your Passion

When a rocket ship burns its fuel, it creates a tremendous amount of energy called thrust. Without a navigation system, undirected thrust can just as easily drive a rocket into the ground as it could send the rocket to the stars. Financial planners who have discovered their Noble Purpose also have vast amounts of energy, only it’s not called thrust—it’s called motivation and inspiration. To reach your fullest potential as a financial planner, you must learn to direct your thrust.Scott Kays says that undirected passion cannot create progress, and eventually becomes a destructive force as your lack of progress causes you to become frustrated, then angry, and finally de-motivated. He says that passion must be directed by establishing clear, specific goals. These goals give you something on which you can apply your passionate energy and measure your progress.Barajas says that he once heard someone say, “The devil doesn’t make you bad, he makes you busy.” For him, this quote has profound meaning. He says that when you’re too busy you get distracted. When you get too distracted you forget to focus on who you are, what you love, and what you’re good at doing. When you lose that vital focus your navigation system has failed and you also lose your passion.There’s a difference between working on your business and working in your business. When you work in your business, the devil wins: you lose sight of the big picture, lose focus, and become distracted. When you work on your business, you win because you’ve planned and set goals to direct your thrust.You know about the importance of goal setting. Yet few people who tout the significance of goal setting appreciate the bottom-line, fundamental reason why. Now you know: goal setting is important because it’s the navigation system that directs your thrust and paints the target toward which you aim your rocket.To program your navigation system, plan every aspect of your financial planning practice. Set written goals that have specific deadlines and devise a system that enforces accountability and creates a sense of urgency. Post your goals and deadlines next to your Noble Purpose.

Passion Principle #3: Surround Yourself with ‘Protons’

Everyone you come in contact with in your financial planning practice—clients, co-workers, colleagues, and others—either enlarge your passion or diminish it. They’re like sub-atomic particles: protons have positive energy, electrons have negative, and neutrons are neutral.Scott Kays advises other financial planners to surround themselves with protons—people who exude positive energy and enlarge your passion. Other planners who have proton personalities, who are further along in their careers, or have more prosperous practices are often good people to have within your sphere.Kays urges you to take active steps to avoid electrons who radiate negative energy and diminish your passion. He insists that his warning applies to co-workers, the firm you work for, and even clients. If you’re the boss, you should fire employees with electron personalities because they will affect your entire team. If you work in a firm that diminishes your passion, find another firm. And don’t hesitate to fire a client who’s an electron—you can’t allow a single individual client to cloud your attitude toward all the rest of your clients and the way you work on your business.

Passion Principle #4: Soft Re-Entry

Ray Ferrara is a financial planning veteran of nearly 35 years, and the president of Provise in Clearwater, Florida. He says that financial planners who run on passion’s high-octane fuel generate enough thrust to travel near light speed—a pace that’s hard to consistently maintain. To sustain that pace it’s necessary to recognize when you’re getting physically and mentally drained. And that’s when it’s time to slow down, even stop for a while. Sometimes you need to come to a complete stop for the short term in order to resume your pace over the long term.Many times you’re not the best judge of when you’re reaching your limit. If you’ve surrounded yourself with proton personalities, they can alert you. Encourage and show your appreciation to a co-worker, friend, or spouse who speaks up and tells you that you’re showing some wear around the edges. Then act on their warnings by doing whatever you do that helps you relax, decompress, and slow down.Learning the principles of passionate financial planning is just as important as learning the principles of asset allocation, estate planning, and risk management. The challenge is that you won’t find many continuing education classes that cover the passion principles; there aren’t any formulas, financial models, or calculations you can use to discover the principles.Louis Barajas says that the only people who truly have greatness in their lives are the people who can tap into the source of their passion. Follow the four passion principles and you will have greatness in your life.

Credit: FPA