Things More Important Than Me
With financial markets settling down the last month its left me, like so many others, reflecting on life, relationships, and the future. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to enjoy a day of fishing on a mountain lake with a client. As his small boat bobbed on the water, the mountains engaging us on all sides, we shared more about ourselves than we ever had before. As the day progressed, I found myself thinking more and more, "I never knew that about you. I never knew that was going on with you and your spouse. I can't believe you've been coming into my office, chatting on the phone, and sending e-mails for years now and this has never come up." Of course, the information was personal and while it had no direct impact on financial planning matters, I couldn't help but realize how completely it must have been occupying his mind for some time, but I never knew.
This wasn't the first time I've found myself having thoughts like these. Last year, a new client mentioned she had recently written a biography. Interested to learn more, I asked where I might find a copy, and was soon provided my very own free one (The Storm of the i: An Artobiography, by Tina Collen (with her permission). After 65 years of her life was laid bare over the course of 300 pages, I was speechless. A woman's relationships with her father fractured from the time she was young and a lifetime spent trying to prove herself to a man who, at the end of it all, could only say, "I never knew if you were even mine." I realized then how arrogant it was of me to think I knew my clients because I once wrote a financial plan for them. Or even continued on in a relationship for years, chatting for 5 or 10 minutes before reviewing accounts, asking about checking balances, new financial goals, and so on.
Reminded of this again last month, I'm humbled. It isn't just these two people who have so much more going on in their lives then I'll ever know, it's everyone. Dozens and dozens of life stories I'll never know. The realization that while finances may drive many of our life decisions, it is a comparatively small part of what makes us who we are. And that you are dealing with a range of emotions, joys, struggles, etc. that engulf your life every day but are so little known by so many of those around you, including me. While I certainly only ask that you share with me as much as you feel comfortable, I'm going to try and do better in recognizing that there will always be more to you than I'll ever know. And to convey the message that I care.