Five Secrets to Create Your Own Luck

Five Secrets to Create Your Own Luck

Happy birthday to me! Well, not exactly me, perse. Happy birthday to ITsolopreneurs! It was pretty much one year ago when I started putting fingers to keys and crafting the beginnings of my blog.

When I look back at how 2016 went for ITsolopreneurs, I have nothing but pride in how far the blog has come. I’ve been fortunate enough to appear on three podcasts. I’ve had multiple guest posts. I appeared on the cover of an industry magazine. None of this seems overly significant compared to most of the other multitudes of blogs out there. I’m still a newbie. I have a long way to go. Nevertheless, it’s a little taste of success. And that’s worth celebration. I used to think people just get lucky with their accomplishments. But I realized it’s far more reliable to create your own luck.

At the beginning, I had no idea how it would look, or how I, little insignificant me, could add to anybody’s life. I had no idea if people would care to even consider my insights upon solopreneurship, people skills, and professional success. I just knew I had insight. I knew I had a unique perspective on how I saw the world. And I had a voice. While I might have been a little self-conscious at first to express my opinion on the vast and sometimes treacherous waters of the internet, I chose to explore it.

Upon reflection of the past year, there are some key lessons that I learned, which I know will stick with me forever. And both my career and personal life would thrive because of what I learned in the last 365 days.

Key Lessons in Attracting Success
 

1. You Never Know Unless You Try
 

My podcast partner, Perry Lai of TransformYourKid.com recently posted in our Facebook group about how he told his kid to write a terrible composition. Luther, his son, was supposed to write a composition for school. But he was procrastinating. He was procrastinating because he didn’t’ feel that he was good at writing. So he wasn’t looking forward to putting pen to paper and composing anything. So, Perry instructed him to compose a ‘terrible’ composition. Why would a father tell his son to purposely craft something terrible? He did this to eliminate the perfectionist factor.

Often the reason we don’t take action is that we are overwhelmed by the fact that we don’t think that we can create that perfect piece of work…maybe tot even perfect, but a respectable piece of anything. So many of us (myself included) think we simply wouldn’t be able to do it justice, whatever it is. Hence we end up doing nothing. We don’t want to put in a ton of effort into a project only to have it fail spectacularly. By giving his son the permission to create something terrible, Perry essentially eliminated the possibility of failure. Here’s the rub. The first iteration of anything we do, be it a composition, drawing, book, will be disastrous. The first few times we do anything, it will suck. It only gets better. Only when you have a tangible version of anything, regardless how crappy it is, can you make it better. Making anything better first requires that you have something on which to improve. So, clearly the first step is to create that first version. As Nathan Chan of Foundr magazine said, ‘if you not embarrassed by your first product, you’ve shipped too late.’

2. Consistency is Worth More Than Aptitude
 

I used to play badminton competitively in university. I could hardly hit anything when I started. I played “churchyard badminton.” I played the type of badminton that people would play on a Sunday afternoon, outdoors at the church picnic, with my Sport Chek racquet. I was terrible. But something about the sport spoke to me. Ever since I did my first smash, I was hooked. For the next 5 years, even beyond my graduation, I played badminton 6 days a week, from 7 – 10 every night. A couple years into it, I started entering tournaments and competing at various clubs, and eventually throughout the province. My group of friends and I went to Calgary, Grand Prairie, Red Deer, all over Alberta to compete. I had progressed far from where I started. With the help of a college coach, who gave us free instruction out of the kindness of his heart, I trained like the college kids. My best ranking was 24th in the province in my category. I was still no star player. I still got my ass handed to me by the A-players from Glencoe and Royal Glenora… the kids who started in badminton when they were 8. But the point is that with consistent effort applied over time, and the intent to get better, you will improve.

Same thing with blogging. The first few times, it took me hours upon hours to write a decent blog post. One of the key success factors to building the blog was to publish consistently. Daunting as it might have been, I started to write every week. It’s been a year. I’ve shaved down my efficiency in crafting articles tremendously. Again, the more you do something and the longer you keep at it, you can’t help but get better. True, there’s still a long way to go for me. But if you show up and work it every day, every week, or whatever frequency to which you committed, the only way to go is up.

Sure there are people with talent. There are plenty of people who are much more talented writers, who write more eloquently, and with clever humor and poise. But ask me to bet on consistency or talent, and I’ll put my money on consistency every single time. It matters less how smart and talented you are. If you’re not rolling up your sleeves and bringing it consistently, you’ll never win the race.

3. Finding a Mastermind is invaluable
 

You can’t get good at basketball playing by yourself in the driveway. Half a year ago, I formed a mastermind with some folks I met in a business course I took. Having a mastermind you can bounce ideas off is invaluable. Just today, Frans, Marco and I met, as we do every Sunday. I had a mental block about a development on my site, and together we were able to work through it. No more mental block. I felt the excitement again to continue working on my site. I was once again inspired. Had I not talked to them about it, I would have continued to wallow in my own stagnancy. I could afford a couple weeks of stagnancy, as uncomfortable as it feels. Soon though, I would have lost the momentum and perhaps even threw it on the backburner.

The other magic about mastermind groups is the accountability that is part of the deal. Quite frankly, you’re way less likely to give into your own devices and slack off if you have to report to your accountability partners. There have been so many occasions where I really want to slack off, but because I have to report to my peers on a weekly basis, I’ll pull up my socks and do the work.

4. Resourcefulness is Critical
 

Anyone who knows me knows that I am of average intelligence. Never have I claimed to be an expert on any particular subject. But it doesn’t stop me from sharing expertise and experiences with the world. Why should it? Even if you get a PhD in an area, you can’t truly have acquired all the information in that area. On that note, I’m not sure why would you bother even, when you know that the collective knowledge of the entire world is at your fingertips. People often mistake having knowledge with the ability to acquire knowledge. Why take it so hard on yourself? It’s impossible anyways. There’s absolutely no way that you as one single individual can know everything about everything. No one’s going to fault you for not having all facts yourself.

You do need to be resourceful, though. There was once a Chicago newspaper that tried to skewer Henry Ford back in the day. They pompously questioned his intelligence because they knew he wasn’t formally educated. It got to the point where Ford was brought to court and even cross-examined. Ford was peppered with trivia questions about philosophy and history. Eventually, Ford runs out of patience and says:

“If I should really WANT to answer the foolish question you have just asked or any of the other questions you have been asking me, let me remind you that I have a row of electric push-buttons on my desk, and by pushing the right button, I can summon to my aid men who can answer ANY question I desire concerning the business to which I am devoting most of my efforts. Now, will you kindly tell me, WHY I should clutter up my mind with general knowledge, for the purpose of being able to answer questions, when I have men around me who can supply any knowledge I require?”

He’s absolutely right. Why would clutter your mind with anything other than what you need at a given point in time? With the dawn of the internet and all the remarkable new industries it’s spawned, we as the human race has had convenient access to more knowledge than ever before. It’s changed the face of education, of business, even finding love. In business, it’s enabled even peasants like me to try my hand at building an online enterprise for myself.

Resourcefulness has and always continues to be a skill that is indicative of success in any area of your life. Especially in business, where there is no user guide, no set manual, no set of instructions you follow to make it, being resourceful is critical. It literally makes the difference between whether you’re going make it in the business world, or crumple in the corner and die an unceremonious death.

Ideas are Ever-Plenty
 

People often ask me how I can come up with something to write every week. I’ve been asked time and time again what my “creative process” is. “Aren’t you afraid that you’ll run out of topics on which to write?” they ask. Here’s the thing. There’s so much craziness going on in the world, you can’t even make this stuff up. All you have to do is open your eyes. Be observant. Be curious. In following the trail of curiosity, there’s always something to write about.

Most of us are way too self-absorbed to notice anything past the end of our nose. But if we just take a minute to pay attention to more than just ourselves, you’ll find that your immediate environment is a fertile field of ideas that are quietly waiting for someone to act upon them. It could be that next business idea, or you might notice a problem that calls to you to solve. The simple definition of business, as I explained to my 5yr old, is when you are able to create something valuable out of otherwise ordinary materials and solve someone’s problem. In turn that someone gives you money for it. That is business, pure and simple. Ideas are the easy part. The road to success is strewn with great ideas that were never executed. The operative word is to execute.

5. Sow enough seeds and Something will Start Growing
 

I am of the philosophy that if you throw enough stuff onto the wall, something is bound to stick. So if you want to make it rain, if you want something happen for whatever it is you’re trying to make happen, turn every stone. Take every opportunity. Say yes to everyone and everything thing that is going to help you cover more ground on your critical path.

When I was learning to sell insurance, I was taught that the key to getting sales was to fill the pipe with leads. Only when you have enough potential opportunities to filter down to the yes’s can you see any sort of turnover in sales. Not everyone is going to say yes. In fact, we were taught in the world of insurance, that you have to talk to three people, to get one yes. That means that you have to go through two no’s before you score. So reverse engineering that concept, if you want to have 10 sales, you have to fill the pipe with 30 potentials. There’s no shortcut. It’s all about the numbers. Take enough shots and you eventually score the goals. Every business is different. The turnover ratios are obviously different in every industry. But one thing’s for sure: if you don’t fill the pipe, if you don’t sow seeds, you won’t see the harvest.

It’s always exciting to start something new. Whether you’re starting a new job, or exercise regimen, the hoopla is always at the beginning. That’s the easiest time to bring it. In the beginning, you’ve got the most momentum. You’re feeding off the novelty of your new project. As time progresses, and you’re not seeing success, you feel like you’re failing. That’s normal. It feels like failure in the middle. You’ll get tired. You’ll start to ease off the pedal thinking questioning why you even went down this path. Every so often, though, the universe will throw you a bone to keep you in the game. You just have to stay in the game. Revisit that vision often. Keep executing. The harder you work, the luckier you get.

Here’s to the quiet ones who grind with consistency, with a clear vision of what success looks like when they get there. We salute you.

Cat Lam
Human Performance
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Catherine (Cat) Lam, CPA-CMA is the founder of ITSolopreneurs.com, a leadership and professional development blog. Energetic, ultra-positive, and having a genuine approach to ... Click for full bio

Advisors: 5 Tips for Getting a Blog Through Compliance

Advisors: 5 Tips for Getting a Blog Through Compliance

Whether they are a financial advisor at an RIA firm or a broker-dealer, the conversation always seems to go the same way. Immediately after a financial advisor agrees that writing a blog post with me would be a great way to improve branding, the next words out of their mouth are always, “But what about getting a blog through my compliance department? Such a pain in the neck and it takes forever.” Have you ever said these words, or something to that effect? As someone who has both been a financial advisor in the past — and now writes financial advisor blogs for a living– I can offer 5 painless tips for getting your financial advisor blog (and investor decks, social media postings, or any other content) through compliance.

1. Understand the Mindset of the Compliance Professional

The bell rings…ding, ding, ding…

In one corner, in the gold trunks weighing in at 180 pounds, three time Golden Glove Champion, your firm’s Chief Compliance Officer!

In the second corner, in the red and black trunks weighing in at 150 pounds, the challenger, Financial Advisor Joe!

What a battle. Sound like your situation? In my talks with financial advisors, I’ve heard the tone get downright adversarial when it comes to their experiences getting content through compliance. It doesn’t have to, and should not be, this way. Here’s why: compliance has ultimate authority over what goes through and what doesn’t. They make the decision. Fight them, and they will win. Understand their mindset and strive to cooperate as much as possible, and you’ll find that over time they’ll loosen up that tight upper lip and make things easier for you.

So let’s start by looking at what the Chief Compliance Officer at your firm thinks about as he or she is commuting to work everyday. Unlike financial advisors, they aren’t paid for productivity. They’re paid to minimize risk. Their worst nightmare is letting something slide that gets picked up by the regulators or results in a compliance breach, because that can only happen once or twice before they’re out on the street looking for a new job.

Now, whether you’re at an RIA firm or a broker dealer can be quite influential here. At an RIA firm, the CCO is often a member of the staff that has a collegial relationship with the advisor team. The advisor team also tends to be smaller at an RIA firm which means the CCO probably knows them better, which in the CCO’s mind, reduces risk and makes them feel more comfortable.

But at a broker-dealer, the compliance officer has to deal with hundreds of advisors, many of whom he or she has never met before.  There’s no relationship and no trust most of the time. Wouldn’t that make you nervous? The compliance officer has no incentive to cut you any slack because you’re just another number. And I have to admit, they aren’t always pretty; some financial advisor blogs fall into what I call the “Chaotic Picasso” category. You are not their friend, you are the enemy because you acting upon even the slightest oversight can get them canned, the slightest slip up, the most minor miscommunication. There are only two exceptions. I’ve found in my work with broker-dealer teams, the advisors who either are the top producers or have already established trust with compliance are the ones whose content gets placed at the top of the pecking order. But what do you do if you’re not one of these select few?

The answer is that you have to “sell” yourself to them. Just as you would to a prospect, build trust gradually. You wouldn’t expect to close a sale on the first phone call, would you? No. You take the time to do things like meet with the prospect, ask them questions to seek to understand their challenges and goals better, and then to set forth a plan of action that they will agree to. You see over time that this warms up even the toughest of skeptics.

That’s really critical: get their buy-in. How do you do that?

  • First of all, give compliance a long lead time when you first start to work together. Don’t make your first submission be about an event happening a week from now. Give them a ridiculous amount of lead time, as much as you can.
  • Give them a heads up. Either meet with them in person or have a phone conversation about what you want to write about, and be clear. Ask for their advice about what would make it easy to get it approved. Maybe even submit an outline of the posting before you write the content so that you don’t waste time writing on something they have to ding.
  • Make the content appealing and entertaining to read. Keep in mind they have to read a million dry, boring financial advisor blogs all day long. Using humor and other techniques that I’ll discuss later in this article might just make them enjoy reading what you write and let’s be honest that makes them feel more inclined to support what you’re trying to do.
  • Lastly, give them a break and steer clear of the problem areas. Just like that one teacher in school that everyone said was such a hard grader and would return your essay with red pen scratches everywhere, understand what it is likely to get their goat. I’ll comment more on this topic later in my article, but the list includes anything related to performance, track record, and advertising or soliciting your firm.
     

How do you make an article meaningful without discussing these topics, you may ask. Behold the answers in the next section!

2. Avoid the Landmines

Financial advisors complain that they can’t get anything meaningful through compliance. In reality, though, most advisors feel that in order to show value they need to predict the market, pitch products, boost about past trades, or their firm. In reality (and especially if you are marketing to certain generations such as Millennials) it’s all been said before and if you really want to rise above the noise you have got to come up with something different anyways.

People choose you based upon service, not product, most of the time. So serve them like clients! Give them the gift of knowledge with an intriguing, spot on, highly relevant piece. The best financial advisor blogs answer questions that people have. The way Google and the social media engines work is through relevance. For example, if you were to do some online searches and research the questions that people tend to have about mortgages, it’s not about the intricacies of the paydown schedule. People use the Internet for “social learning”, reading threaded conversations where they can learn through the experiences of other people.

If I were a financial advisor who wanted to find the buzz uttered by people who were first time home buyers, I’d visit the Quora mortgage page (“Mortgages”, n.d). The biggest question people tend to have is about the mistakes first time home buyers make. Other topics involve the actual process of working with a loan officer, PMI, ARMs, and how to work with lenders. These are examples of great financial advisor blog topics. Establishing yourself as an expert by answering questions relevant to first time home buyers will get your content liked, shared, and indexed better by Google because you are, in a sense, providing a service online to people through your content.

What prevents many people from answering questions this way is the fear of doing work for free. Nobody can argue that getting paid is the end goal for everyone in business. Yet there is some grinding that you have to do before you can earn the privilege of getting paid 100% of the time for your wisdom. Most of the really successful people will say that, online or not, they only get paid for 25% of the work they do. Show enough value, and eventually the leads will come. Talk to what people want to hear about, and eventually the paying clients will hear you.

If you want to build your cybercredibility, traffic is what matters to Google. You may get 1k views and only one lead, but in a sense the rest of the 999 people have paid you with their view. I caution my clients not to underestimate the value of being followed online. A subscriber may not have an immediate need but over time chances are that they or someone connected to them will. Herein lies the importance of the financial advisor sales funnel. Touch them once or twice a month with value rich, insightful content through newsletters, social media, and even direct visits or calls, and you’ll see them convert over time.

3. Find a Financial Copywriter

I find that many financial advisor blogs run into problems with compliance because of how they phrase things. This takes a certain degree of writing skill that may or may not be a priority for the advisor to have. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel; hire a good financial copywriter, one who is familiar with FINRA and other regulations governing the copy, can save you the headache of going back and forth with compliance ad nauseam.

Here are some examples of phrasing that can improve compliance success. In each case, I’ve presented the novice phrasing as well as the way a professional financial copywriter would phrase it.

  • Distressed debt is a great addition to any large pension portfolio who wants to outperform.
  • Distressed debt has become a popular investment choice for many of the top global pension funds such as CalPERS.
     

What makes this good copy? The balanced view that it provides. While a novice writer would express a strong opinion that may be construed financial advice (which is the compliance officer’s pet peeve), a professional writer will couch this opinion in fact.

Technology is bound for a reversal and is one of the best places for your money in 2018.

When arranging a target asset allocation, investors may find it useful to consider a range of sectors where economic growth may likely be on the rebound. While the future can never be predicted, a likely source of economic growth in years to come will be the sizzling technology sector which has most likely hit rock bottom. Experts see this sector as due for a turnaround in 2018. Do you agree?

The lesson here is to ask, not advise. The language in the second statement is conditional rather than absolute, i.e. “may find”, “can never be predicted”, “most likely.” These words are soothing to the compliance officer’s ears!

  • Hedging strategies shield investors from dips in the market.
  • Hedging strategies are a form of risk management put in place when an investor wishes to obtain a way to protect the portfolio from dips in the market.
     

What makes the second example of copy easier on the compliance officer is the higher truthfulness of the second statement. While statement #1 is true is some cases, it’s not always what ends up happening. Compliance officers love it when you explain the strategy and the goal rather than making blanket statements about outcomes that may or may not apply in all situations.

Here are some tools that I myself have compiled to assist in the process of putting together financial advisor blogs.

One final caveat on hiring financial copywriters. Before you hire one, make sure that you get straight what kind of financial advisor blog content you’d like produced. Some copywriters just recycle canned content that has already been used elsewhere for other clients. You don’t want to be left holding the bag when it comes to plagiarism. Be sure to search on a few phrases by inputting them directly in Google just to make sure that what you get hasn’t been published elsewhere. Or, you can consult with one of the free plagiarism check services available through sites such as Grammarly.

4. Include Graphics

As someone who produces digital copy for a living, it’s clear to me that the best received content is visual. I don’t mean graphs and charts, I mean imagery that conveys the message you’re trying to make. For example, if you’re talking about how a particular rebalancing technique works well for pension funds, include a picture of pension fund employees sitting around a conference table looking happy instead of a boring old graph of historical performance.

You know the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. Spice up your piece with stock photos or designed images that convey your point creatively. Compliance won’t have anything to say about it and your audience will like the article better.

By the way, for those of you who are looking to penetrate a local market, including keyword-rich labelled graphics is a great way to juice up your SEO. So are Infographics. Google loves these!

Where can you find these images? Check out stock photo websites such as Pexels or  Shutterstock. For custom designed images, you can hire resources inexpensively through freelancer sites such as Fiverr.

5. Distribute Like Crazy

Getting your content in front of a targeted audience is a great way to get views on the article without having to go to town on the content. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that there is ever a good reason for weak content. I’m saying that a well targeted message put in front of the right group will go far just because you’re speaking to the right people.

If you’re a compliance officer, which article do you review first (and possibly be a tiny bit more lenient towards). One, a financial advisor blog that went on a rep’s blog and got 50 views, no comments, no leads, and net-net did not earn money for the firm? Or scenario #2, let’s say that article got picked up by CNBC and featured as syndicated content, gaining attention for both the rep and the firm, got backlinked to by several websites, earned over 1,000 views and led to several new prospects getting in touch with the rep? These #2 articles make the compliance officer look great and would motivate them to put your order first the next time around.

Related: Advisor Brand: 3 Critical Areas to Customize for Higher Online Conversions

Bonus tip: Don’t Forget LinkedIn Messaging!

LinkedIn has recently revised its platform to enable instant messaging to your contacts. This is not something to be taken lightly. Many people will engage over instant messaging just because they are online whereas if you sent an email they would never respond. As long as you are messaging one person at a time, this doesn’t count as “advertising.”  Many compliance departments will track this activity but do not require pre-approval. This is a great way to communicate freely over social media and get attention from prospects that might be in your network. Scour your contact list and see who might be a potential prospect or center of influence and then ping them.

Sara Grillo
Marketing
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In a past life, I worked in finance in a variety of sales and marketing related roles, and hence hold the CFA® designation. With a BA in English from Harvard with honors and ... Click for full bio