When Just Short of Perfect is Actually Better
Understanding the three stages that advisors go through when re-evaluating where they are and where they want to be
While it’s human nature to strive for “perfection,” if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that perfection is nearly impossible to achieve when it comes to one’s work. Certainly, it’s everyone’s right to hold out for that perfect scenario; however, I find that those who are the most unyielding in their expectations are typically not that unhappy with where they are — and that’s as it should be.
But there are others who have reached their pain threshold; they will typically loosen their grip on perfection, become more willing to be flexible in their requirements and to give on the things that aren’t essential. The latter are driven by a motivation to move on to something “better enough”.
It stands to reason that directly proportional to the amount of pain one is feeling about his current situation is the willingness to “soften the edges” of what defines the best place for him and his business. The more frustration one feels, the more flexible he is willing to be about what the next opportunity must look like.
Many advisors express some level of unhappiness with their current firm.
They cite a variety of reasons—too much bureaucracy, a desire for more control, lack of support, and a change in culture typically top the lists. These folks long for the “perfect” scenario, where each piece falls into place exactly the way they want, solving for everything that they perceive to be wrong with where they are now.
Aiming for perfection is noble and what propels many to greatness. But without clarity of purpose and priorities, and the willingness to compromise, you’re likely to be lost in a land of indecision, waiting a long time for perfection rather than identifying what may simply be “better enough”.
When an advisor starts to recognize the imperfections of his current job, three things happen:
1. They spring into action.
Many begin looking for ways to improve their job, and when that doesn’t work, they begin to evaluate the landscape, spinning their wheels, sorting through a dizzying array of options in an ever-changing landscape. They ask friends, they read headlines and hear about uber-sized payouts. Then they start thinking about the “perfect deal” that would make a move “worthwhile”.
2. They settle in.
This stage can go two ways: Some advisors decide it isn’t so bad where they are, and simply choose to stay put. This isn’t a bad thing at all; it means that from a position of strength, they have compared where they’re at against what’s available elsewhere and decided that inaction is the best strategy for now.
Yet many other advisors dwell in discontentment, operating under the mindset that since there is no opportunity that would grant them the PERFECT work life, they immobilize themselves, regardless of how miserable they seem to be, until…
3. They hit their pain threshold.
This is when waiting for perfection is no longer an option, and the motivation to move is driving the mindset. Yet to set out with an endpoint in mind, you must have clarity, which means digging deep and identifying the “must haves” (the things you can’t live without) and those demands that may ultimately be OK to leave on the table.
Unfortunately, many people in an untenable situation get “stuck” at stage 2, choosing to do nothing, settling for a situation that they recognize can’t be further from perfect. Staying “stuck” is a sad choice, in my opinion, but one that can be avoided by gaining some clarity.
How clarity enables flexibility
In order to define what matters most to you, I recommend making three lists that answer the following:
What are the things you want to change about your current work life?
How much are your frustrations impacting your life, work, clients, and overall business?
What would you hope to achieve by making a move? That is, what are your long- and short-term goals?
While these questions may seem simple, you’d be surprised how many advisors never start here. The power of these lists rests in that they allow you to clearly understand what’s most important and what’s most frustrating—only then can you identify the difference between what you “must have” and what is just “nice to have”.
There’s nothing wrong with seeking perfection. Yet for those who recognize that where they are no longer serves them, having realistic expectations and flexibility will enable them to choose from a variety of options that are available in a market that’s favoring advisors.
And with so many options available – and a flexible mindset – it’s likely you’ll make a decision that actually is close to perfect.