If only I could take credit for this recent Tweet by an industry colleague:

Me: Oh, that’s interesting.  I’m not familiar with that designation.  What’s it stand for?

Other finance dude: Ummmmm, I don’t really remember.  I bought it like 10 years ago.

LOL.

In addition to its entertainment value, the Tweet also made me ponder the idea of being an expert and how much we all signal our level of knowledge to others.  Why do we care so much about being an expert?  I’m going to draw some key distinctions between being experienced and having an expertise.  At risk of sounding like a trite distinction, my hope is that we can start to see a difference in how more equipped we can all become when not thinking of ourselves as experts.

The title of Ghandi’s autobiography fascinates me: ‘The Story of My Experiments with Truth’.  Surely, by many accounts, Ghandi could be called an expert – perhaps his insight to finding happiness, peacefulness, and fulfillment.  Many followed him; surely, we could call him an expert in leadership.  Instead, he chose ‘Experiments’ to title his book.  He writes of his journey with no mention of arrival.  He does not claim to be an expert.

In my former life, Career 1.0, I gave golf lessons.  I always paused when a student would come to me after a round of golf or a long practice session and exclaim, “Mitch!  I’ve figured it out!”.  I always encouraged them to reframe how they were perceiving this feedback from a few good golf shots.  Golf is a complex game and offers endless analogies to life.  One of which is that we’ll never figure it out.  Golf and life are both journeys where, with discipline and focus, we incrementally become better versions of ourselves.  We ‘experiment’ like Ghandi.  We refine.  We improve.  There is no end game, we do not arrive, there is no peak of knowledge, there are no experts.  There are simply those who have experimented in Truth more than others (at least in this life – spiritual debates for another day). Sometimes this will reveal itself in age (wisdom of the years), sometimes this will reveal itself in a zeal for learning (youthful enthusiasm).  Sometimes, both (which is ideal).

Wealth creation and preservation is not a zero-sum game.  Someone else does not have to lose for you to win.  We’re better off with a commitment to learning and continual improvement; as opposed to boxing out competition through our ‘expertise’.   This mentality is not industry specific and this mentality will lift all ships.

My plea is to both advisors and those seeking financial advice.  As advisors, we should get honest with ourselves and, not just say, but truly think of ourselves as more experienced in a certain area – not experts.  We have not arrived, and we never will arrive.  Ferociously, keep learning.  For those that seek out personal financial advice, when you encounter an expert: RUN.  Okay, just be wary.  More importantly, bring the same attitude of learning to the table.  Creating the vulnerability that’s necessary to take financial advice might be one of most impactful decisions you make regarding your long-term wealth.

Stay calm. Stay invested.

Thanks for reading,

See disclaimers.

Mitch

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