If you could come up with 3 words for this year, 3 words that would drive your actions and keep you on track to make this your best year ever, what would those 3 words be?

This is the fifth year now where I’ve begun the year by identifying 3 words that will set the course, give me direction, and totally excite me as I move through the year. I write these words at the top of my Daily Focus sheet and look at them daily throughout the year.

Prior Years 3 Words

2018: Spark, Community, Savor
2017: Discipline, Deliver, Score
2016: Launch, Leverage, Connect
2015: Implement, Energy, Relationships

The premise is simple. Pick 3 words that motivate you, remind you, and guide you on your road to making 2019 your best year ever.

I encourage all my clients to do this and I encourage you to do this same exercise as it will help you stay focused on the most important outcomes for the year.

In today’s post, I discuss my 3 words for 2019 as well as review my 3 words for 2018 and discuss how well I executed on them.

     

My 3 Words for 2019

 

First, let’s take a look back at my 3 words for 2018 and see what grade I give myself in terms of how the words guided my actions in the past year.

Review of My 3 Words for 2018

Let me begin by saying that my overall grade on how well I lived up to my 3 words in 2018 is probably the lowest of the four years I’ve been doing this exercise. And as I go through each of the 3 words, I’ll explain why I say that.

Spark

The word Spark was related to sparking a revolution and a reinvention in the way financial advisors do business through my company, ROL Advisor. This company is a partnership between me and Mitch Anthony.

Most of us realize that our business is changing dramatically and rapidly. What financial advisors have typically been paid for, the investment management piece, is quickly becoming a technology and cost-driven activity that eventually will leave little margin for financial advisors. And even the financial planning side is vulnerable to being disrupted by technology and new competitors.

ROL Advisor is designed to leverage the one thing financial advisors have that no technology will ever replace. And that one thing is your humanness.

It’s your ability to have an engaging, meaningful conversation with another human being.  It’s about helping people make better choices with their money and their life, so they can live their best life possible with the money they have.

So Spark was designed to help keep me focused on the big idea of revolution and reinvention in the way financial advisors do business.

Now, in terms of the letter grade I give myself in helping to spark this revolution and reinvention, I’d give myself a B. And this needs a little bit of explaining. I need to break it down into two aspects.

First, I’d give myself an A in terms of how many advisors joined the ROL Advisor Program in 2018. We finished the year with about 250 members from 9 countries around the world which is just phenomenal.

Second, on the flip side, I’d give myself a C in spreading the message about ROL Advisor. We pretty much operated under the radar in 2018 as we built out the product and onboarded hundreds of advisors. And I didn’t do a huge amount of public communication or marketing around ROL Advisor this past year. But, I’m happy to say, that is going to change, big time, in 2019.

Mitch and I have plans in place to make 2019 the big unveiling of ROL Advisor. So perhaps I was just one year early in having Spark as one of my 3 words.

Steve Sanduski

Steve Sanduski: Mastery is an aspiration, not a destination.

Community

For many years, I was the Managing Partner of Peak Advisor Alliance, and under my leadership we grew it from 0 to 1,000 financial advisors that we coached. It was a great run and we built a really nice community of advisors.

Now, I’m taking everything I learned in building Peak, plus incorporating the tremendous advances in technology and training over the past six years, and putting that into building a new community of advisors at ROL Advisor.

Having Community as one of my 3 words in 2018 was to recognize that every successful revolution and reinvention requires a community.

It’s disappointing that I can only give myself a C on building this community. The issue was that I allocated a significant amount of my time to onboarding and training the new members, building out the product, and taking care of the members. So it didn’t leave a lot of time for community building. For 2019, we’ve got a plan to devote more resources to community building so I’m confident I’ll improve in this area.

Savor

I’ve been very blessed in life. I have an amazing family, we have good health, we have financial resources, we have friends. I have a faith community and I’m very thankful and grateful for all it. Where I think I’m lacking is in truly savoring all that God has blessed me with.

My thought going into 2018 was I would consciously spend more time savoring everything from the food I eat to simply being out in nature. I wanted to fully appreciate, relish, and treasure all aspects of my life.

And while I’d give myself an A on being grateful and appreciative for my blessings, I’d give myself a B- on savoring. I still found myself reading articles and checking email on my phone while eating (when eating alone, not with my family), listening to podcasts while in the car instead of savoring the scenery, and working too much in the early morning instead of nutritious reading or being outside.

I wasn’t too successful with savoring in 2018 but it will still be on my radar in 2019 and beyond as I continue to try to savor more of my day-to-day existence.

3 Words for 2019

Ok, now let’s take a look at my 3 words for 2019. This year, I have come up with my 3 words, but for this post, I’m going to focus on one of those 3 words because I think it’s the most relevant to you. The word is Practice.

Practice

It seems like we live in an “always on” state where we have to be in “performance” mode pretty much from the time we wake up until we go to bed. Thanks to our smartphone, we are never far away from a client communication, a staff request, or our own initiative to try to “make something happen.” We’re always doing something that requires us to deliver our “A” game with little time for rest in between.

As a result, we not only miss time to relax and renew, but we also take little time to practice our craft and get better at what we do.

In the past year, I spent some time reading and listening to podcasts that explored the idea of mastery, and I even had a couple podcast guests on my show where we talked about the concept of mastery including naval test pilot James Licata and sports psychologist Dr. Barbara Meyer.

My definition of mastery is a process of daily practice that leads to greater knowledge, deeper understanding, or improved skill. And unlike many people, I don’t think anybody ever masters anything because no matter how smart or talented you are, there’s always room to improve and grow. To me, mastery is an aspiration, not a destination. The journey toward mastery is its own reward.

About 10 years ago, I read a book called Mastery, by George Leonard. And in 2018, I read it again and had a deeper appreciation for it. Here are a couple quotes from the book that I think help frame how the concept of practice fits into the broader category called mastery.

Self-Knowledge Quote

On the mastery journey you will probably end up learning as much about yourself as about the skill you are pursuing. George Leonard

On an earlier podcast, I talked to Joe Deitch, the founder of Commonwealth Financial, and he said one of the most important attributes a financial advisor needs is self-awareness. And this quote from Leonard fits right into that narrative. By practicing your craft, you’ll not only get better at that craft, but the process itself will open up new avenues of learning and understanding. And I’m someone who loves to learn so spending more time in practice in 2019 will give me a double benefit; I’ll get better at what I practice and I’ll learn more about myself in the process.

On a more practical level, over the course of your practice, you’ll learn what you’re made of. You’ll learn how disciplined you are. You’ll learn whether an extra ½ hour of sleep is more important than doing your workout. You’ll learn what your priorities are. You’ll learn whether the idea of something is more appealing than the reality of it. And what I mean by this is, I love the idea of being a vegetarian but the reality is I love the occasional juicy hamburger. This tradeoff between idea and reality was brought home again to me in 2018 as I loved the idea of savoring but I liked the reality of keeping myself occupied with reading and “doing” something instead of just savoring even more. I’m sure you’ll learn a few things about yourself as well as you begin or accelerate your practice.

Love to Practice Quote

The people we know as masters don’t devote themselves to their particular skill just to get better at it. The truth is, they love to practice—and because of this they do get better. And then, to complete the circle, the better they get the more they enjoy performing the basic moves over and over again. George Leonard

My personal experience has been very similar to what Leonard said in the quote I just shared. From practicing sports when I was in high school and college, to today, when I exercise or do yoga, I have, for the most part, enjoyed practice. And I think one of the things I like best about practice is the ritual or routine of it.

I like having some structure to my day where I know what I’m going to be doing at a certain time, I know that I’m going to be challenging myself, and I know when I’ve made an improvement or not. And, of course, I like the feeling of finishing practice and knowing I’ve done something to better myself.

In his book, Leonard also talked about how the word practice can be defined as a verb or a noun. When used as a verb, practice is something you do. For example, I’m going to practice playing the piano so I can get better at it. By contrast, practice as a noun is any type of practice you do on a regular basis as an integral part of your life. For example, you might say I have a yoga practice, or I have an advisory practice, or I have a law practice. So using practice as a noun is more about who you are than it is about what you do.

Clearly, this idea of practice is a fundamental component of the process of mastery. So I’m making practice one of my 3 words for 2019 because I want to intentionally take more time to be in practice and not just “do” practice. And while I’ll continue my practice of exercise, there’s one other area that I want to get better at in 2019.

The area I want to focus on is communication. Specifically, I want to improve my speaking skills and my writing skills.

Now, I’m already a decent public speaker and I’ve had lots of “practice” speaking on my podcasts, but I know there’s so much room to improve. Likewise, I can write reasonably well but the more I learn about writing, the more I know that I don’t know.

Taken together, I want to place more of an emphasis on being a better overall communicator and have it become more of who I am, not just what I do. And I believe that by spending more time practicing my communication skills and getting into a routine, it will become something I look forward to, that challenges me, and helps me grow.

My Other 2 Words

Here are short descriptions of my other 2 words for 2019.

Voice

Along with practicing my speaking and writing as mentioned above, I want to really dial in on my “voice.” And when I use the word “voice,” I think of it in a couple ways. First, I’m using it to be even clearer in how I articulate what it is that I think, do, and believe. And second, I want to be more memorable in how I say and write things.

Test

I want to get more precise in figuring out what works and what doesn’t when it comes to marketing. And one way to do that is to run tests on different variables and see what works. Then I’ll simply do more of what works and stop doing what isn’t working.

Final Thought

I encourage you to come up with your 3 words for 2019. Write them down and keep them in a place where you can see them every day so they remain top of mind. It’s a great practice to do each year and I suspect you’ll get as much benefit from it as I do.

Resources

  • The ROL Index A tool Mitch Anthony and I developed to help advisors measure their clients’ well-being in 10 aspects of life.
  • Values Clarification Toolkit Click here to download this FREE tool and start living your values.

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Steve Sanduski, CFP® is the CEO and co-founder of ROL Advisor, founder of Belay Advisor, host of the Between Now and Success Podcast, a New York Times bestselling author, and an international speaker.

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