I had a conversation recently that reiterated what I have finally come to accept after 20 years in this business: try as you might, you simply can't be all things to all people. When I first started my career, I literally locked myself in a windowless room with a phone book, and cold-called about 200 people a day, with hopes of talking to 25-to-40 of them, and that those three-to-five minute conversations would lead to me sending some information and following up with that person.
As you can imagine, this many calls at a desk lead to a level of fitness - or lack thereof - that just got worse and worse over the years. In fact, once I got to the point where I could call myself successful as a financial advisor within my own shop, I then experienced clients coming in and asking about my contingency plan. This was in the 2012-2014 time-frame, and what they never said but I now know is, they were worried I was going to drop dead of a heart attack.
My response at first was to put in place more systems and processes so that there would be a plan in place. But it took me a few years to put two and two together and address the real issue these clients were asking about. They were actually worried I might keel over and die!
Fast-forward to the fall of 2014, when I looked at myself in the mirror and finally realized that I was significantly overweight - I felt like I was looking at someone else's body, not mine. I went to the doctor for my annual physical, and he told me I needed to make some big changes in my life...or update my will and other legal documents.
All of a sudden, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I'd just spent 15-plus years giving my life and soul to this business and our client families, and all I was going to get from it was a heart attack. Or worse, a stroke that left me maimed, reminding me every day of how skewed my priorities were. And so, in December of 2014, I stepped back into a gym for the first time in over a decade, got on the treadmill at 2.5 miles per hour, and barely lasted 20 minutes before I was completely out of breath. I did the same thing the next day, and the next, and the next.
Fast-forward to today, May of 2018: I'm nearly 120 pounds lighter, I'm engaged in physical activity six days a week (hey, everyone needs a couch day!), and I'm trying to set an example for my children, set the tone for my office team, and demonstrate to my client families how important physical fitness should be.
For those of you who are my Facebook friends, you already know I workout frequently and travel frequently, and that I live life to the fullest with my my kids and my friends. At the same time, for you who've known me long enough, there are two sides to Dave: there's the serious business owner, financial planner Dave who gets things done; and there's the fun-loving Dave who's a kid at heart and plays as hard (if not harder!) than he works. But believe it or not, that gives me the energy to focus on whatever task is at hand. And speaking of Facebook, some of you might have noticed the Dr. Seuss quote I keep on my profile: "When he worked, he really worked, and when he played, he really played!"
Back when I was a kid, the school counselor told my mother...(go ahead. Imagine what a school counselor might have said to my mom..!!) that I needed to go on medication because I had this thing called Attention Deficit Disorder. My mom has since told me that her response was, "no way, that will stifle his creativity. David needs more playtime so he'll be tired out enough so that when he's at his desk, he can focus."
Those of you who know me as a client, as a friend or both, will agree that my mother hit the nail on the head. To this day, I live by that same philosophy she had while I was growing up: working hard allows me to play hard, and playing hard allows me to focus at work. My dad always taught me to work hard and play hard, but never confuse the two, but in this business, sometimes those lines get blurred. Plus, I truly enjoy my job, and the people I get to do it with and for.
Now, fast-forward to a conversation I had last week. Our team was reviewing our proposals with a prospective client, and showing him how we could work better for him than his current advisor. He seemed to like what we had to say, and even mentioned that we had been more responsive, communicative and easier to get a hold of throughout the relationship so far than he was accustomed to. His one concern? My "extracurricular" activities - read, exercise - that he'd seen me post to my social media accounts. He was concerned my workouts might get in the way of me spending time in the office, which, in his mind means sitting at a desk, in the chair that almost cost me my life.
In retrospect, I'm very proud of my response (how often can you say that??). I took him through how and why we proactively repositioned our Envestnet accounts on Friday, February 9, and again on Friday, March 9, during those market lows. I also told him that I was not physically in our office on either February 9 or March 9. But, I was fully engaged through my iPhone, my Apple watch and my MacBook, all of which alerted me with various texts and dings as to how our portfolios were doing. This allowed me to communicate effectively with our office.
The truth is that, in today's world, outside of face-to-face client meetings in our conference room, my office is anywhere the client wants to meet. That could be on the golf course, on a boat, or in another state. Keep in mind too that I've deliberately built up a team to man the office - there are now 10 of us here. There are always multiple bodies in the office to help you when you call or drop in.
Now, some of you might be thinking, "Wow, I wish I had Smyth's job!" But let me remind you that, not only did I have to hear "no" 180 times a day for 10 years (while we made the switch from a Rolodex and a phone book to the internet and spreadsheets), getting here came with a big price tag.
Since my health epiphany at the end of 2014, I've realized that you all have entrusted me with much more than managing your hard-earned assets. You've entrusted me to physically be around for a long time, and to take care of myself. You've also entrusted me to play therapist when you have those questions that aren't necessarily financial in nature, but are about life in general and what you want. In addition, most of my client families also want to interact with me and my team through a hobby we all enjoy, going out socially, or sometimes, just checking in via a text or phone call.
And over the years of these interactions, you've taught me a few things. One big one I remember was six years ago, when you all told me that, even if I thought I was done, I should have more kids. When you're old, you said, the only thing that matters is grandkids, and to get grandkids, you have to have kids. (Michael, my 5-year-old, thanks you for this advice!) So many of you told me that if you had it to do over again, you'd have had more kids when you were my age.
The second thing I've learned from you all is to do whatever it is that actually brings me joy and happiness, because every day is a gift, and you simply don't know when you won't be able to do it anymore. Trust me, I'm taking this to heart!
And third, you've taught me that the only way to finally be able to enjoy those grandkids and get to that day when you're too old to do anything anymore (and you're okay with that!) is to take care of yourself - physically
So, why do I do what I do? Because I've been blessed with life experiences and the knowledge that my extended family has passed down to me, and I'm eternally grateful for the input I've received from all of you. Because each and every day, it helps me roll out of bed and embrace whatever task is at hand or activity I have to do, whether that's in the office or out and about.