Succeed Sooner by Attempting Less

When I was growing up, my dad had a saying he always used to mention to me: “Jack of all trades, master of…”

“…none. Jack of all trades, master of none.” My dad would say that to me often, meaning the job that you’re doing now, see it through until completion. Master what you’re doing right now to see it through to success. It stood me in great stead and helped me win an Olympic medal.

Many parents of swimmers I trained with called my parents after my Olympic result, congratulating them. A number of them would say, “I know my child had that talent, but they just couldn’t focus.” They were good swimmers, they were good tennis players, good rugby players — so when the seasons were changing, you’d see these kids disappear, and they were off playing another sport. They never mastered one particular activity.

I had this example come through last week when I was talking to two different advisors (or one advisor and an advisor group). I had an advisor tell me that he loves the investment management process, he enjoys the financial planning somewhat, but he knows he needs to be talking with more prospects out there. He’s going to try to do all three. I mentioned to him, “Don’t do all three. Each of them are good, but take them horizontally and put them vertically, and then prioritize them. The chances are, if you prioritize them correctly, you’re going to be able to achieve all three of them, but in the right order.”

I was also talking to another group of advisors who work with our firm, and we were doing a webinar. I mentioned about the language regarding referrals. I mentioned that in the middle of the call. It was a 40-minute call, so it was like 20 minutes before the end, and the first question to come from a lady was, “Can you repeat some of that language?” So I went through the language again. “Can you tell me why you say that line?” I told her the line, and then the questions went on. Somebody else mentioned, “Could you send us the slide deck?” I said, “Absolutely!” This lady immediately jumps in and says, “Make sure you send me the referral language! That sounds like it’ll work!” You could hear the tone. You could hear the resolve in her voice. I know this lady is going to see that increment of her business through and master that language.

Right now, we have so many good ideas that are coming at us quickly. While they’re all good, you can’t do them all at once. We can get used to hearing a good idea and storing it in our mind. [Then] hearing another good idea, storing it in our mind, thinking we’ll get back to it. But we never do.

So, it’s important to write some of these ideas down, but then put them in order. Make a vertical list, and then start knocking off each one. And be patient; take your time until you’ve started mastering this top one.


  1. Take the ideas that you’re hearing, and make a list.

  2. Imagine what being successful in that first increment is going to feel like. (You could hear this lady thinking through exactly how she’d feel confidently delivering this language.)

  3. Take pride in mastering one, knowing that once that’s done, you can then get on to the next one. It’s going to take a little time, but you know that once you’ve finished that list, you’re going to be a fantastic advisor out there, who’s grown and deepened hugely over a relatively short amount of time, while many other advisors are trying to do all these little ideas and not really making much progress on any single one of them.

Stay focused, take the time for mastery and really grow your business and deepen as a great advisor.

Related: How Advisors Can Vet Clients’ Dissatisfied Friends