Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Wednesday Wisdom: The Ability to Change Directions


Your power to choose the direction of your life allows you to reinvent yourself, to change your future, and to powerfully influence the rest of creation. - Stephen R. Covey


This week my wife and I are enjoying a spring break visit from our daughter Sara. At the ripe old age of 36, Sara decided to leave a successful and comfortable career in IT/Customer Service and test the unknown waters of law school.
When Sara asked me beforehand what I thought of her going to law school, I discouraged her. I told her that with a glut of lawyers in this country, lots of newly-minted lawyers were miserably unemployed. The only way it would be a good move, I said, would be if she did exceptionally well. Rather than being daunted by my rather grim assessment, she took it as a personal challenge. She prepared intensively for the LSAT and scored in the 98th percentile. Based on those results and her other credentials, she received a total of $1.25 million in scholarship offers from several high-quality law schools, and eventually accepted one at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
She's now finishing her second year with an excellent class ranking, is a member of the law review, and has a prestigious internship this summer with a highly respected federal bankruptcy judge in Greensboro. I have no doubt she will leave a significant mark on the legal profession, like her father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-uncle before her.
* * * * *
My assistant at Walk-in Wills, Meghan Rogers, was a highly-regarded high-school English teacher, chair of the English Department, and an administrator at her school. She has a Master's degree in English and has taught college-level English and literature classes. But after 10 years in the classroom, she felt that teaching was not taking her where she wanted to be. She made the difficult decision to steer her life in a different direction.
A few months later, I picked her resume out of more than 200 applications I received to fill the new position at Walk-in Wills. She passed the online exercises I sent her with flying colors and then stood head and shoulders above all the other candidates (even though she's only 5' 3" tall) when my wife and I interviewed her for the job.
She's taken to this new career like a fish to water and is a warm and welcoming member of the Walk-in Wills team. She greets our clients with a cheerful smile, helps them understand this new model of legal services, and handles their work with intelligence, discretion, and wisdom beyond her years. There's a big future ahead of her.
* * * * *
Of all the talents that lead to success in life, two of the most important are the ability to stick to a job until it's finished and the ability to change directions when the current path isn't leading to the right destination. While on the surface these capabilities may seem contradictory to each other, they are not. The first is a TACTICAL skill: when you are in the right place, you must push forward and complete the task at hand. The second is STRATEGIC: it requires knowing you are not where you need to be (or are not headed there) and having the courage to change course.
Lao Tzu famously said, "If you do not change direction you may end up where you are headed." That's not a problem if you like where you're headed; indeed, in that case it would be foolish to keep flopping around from path to path. Under those circumstances, perseverance is the appropriate virtue. I applaud those who, knowing they've made the right choice, have the tenacity to push forward even when the way is hard.
But if you know in your gut that where you are or where you're headed isn't where you should be, the ability to change directions is essential to your long-term success and happiness. In that situation, resolute persistence is NOT a virtue but a curse. When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is to stop digging. Figure out where you should be and correct your course. The longer you stay on the wrong road, the harder it will be to get on the right one.
I salute the Saras and Meghans of the world who have the sense to realize that their lives are headed in a less-than-ideal direction and the courage to put on the brakes and turn around. I tip my hat to those who have the faith to follow their dreams and make something better of themselves, as scary as that may sometimes be. I commend the brave souls who choose the more difficult path, the "road less traveled," in pursuit of a more excellent future.
Which leads obviously to one of my favorite poems.
"The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Wednesday Wisdom - The Key to Successful Introductions? Great Second Questions


The first ingredient in conversation is truth, the next good sense, the third good humor, and the fourth wit. 
William Temple 


Meeting new people for the first time can be a challenge. We want to get to know the other person, put them at ease, and move the new relationship forward on the right foot. What we say first is important.
Lately, articles in the blogosphere have called into question the appropriateness of the standard first question: "Hi, I'm Scott Farnsworth. I'm a wills and trusts attorney and a retirement expert. What do you do?" These bloggers' objections to this traditional introduction include:
  • It's shallow.
  • There's much more to who you are than what you do.
  • It makes it seem that how you earn a paycheck is the most important thing about you.
  • It's awkward for someone who's out of work or who doesn't care much about work.
Some of the articles propose "replacement questions" that frankly are so strange that I cannot imagine using them as a first question in a casual introduction at a business meeting, on an airplane, or at a cocktail party. Questions like:
  • How do you feel your life has worked out so far?
  • What personal habit are you proudest of?
  • What are you most passionate about?
Don't get me wrong. I enjoy having deeper conversations using those kinds of questions with someone I already know. But as a first question with someone I barely met, questions like these would feel downright weird.
There's a reason the "What do you do?" question has been around so long: it's safe, comfortable, and expected. It works!
Is it perfect? Of course not. But discarding it would be throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Instead I think the key is to pair it with appropriate follow-up questions. Let's couple "What do you do?" with some Great Second Questions (GSQs).
What makes a Great Second Question? To me, it should be comfortable, not creepy. It needs to feel natural, not contrived. It ought to organically lead to an authentic get-to-know-you conversation. Here's how to develop GSQs.

1.  A GSQ follows sequentially from and builds on the first question, "What do you do?"
To state the obvious, don't yank them in a different direction with your second question. There must be a natural segue from their first answer to your next question. This is not a time to zig when they're zagging.

2.  A GSQ is open ended and invites a narrative answer.
Questions that lead to narrative answers are warm and comfortable. I call them "story-leading questions." Story is our true native language, and it invites human-to-human connection, as I've explained in three of my books (visit  http://www.sunbridgetools.com/store/c3/Books.html).

3. A GSQ isn't analytical, i.e. it doesn't require them to rank, sort, or  evaluate.

Questions requiring analytical answers such as "what's your best . . ." or " what's your most important . . ." or "what's your favorite . . .." disrupt the flow of the conversation. They make the other person stop and perform a calculation and can lead to hesitancy in responding.
4.  A GSQ doesn't get too intimate too quickly.
If it feels like prying, the dialogue is dying. Getting too personal too soon is a sure way to kill a conversation, which is the last thing you want when meeting someone new.

Applying these guidelines, I came up with a few possibilities. What do you think? What would you add to this list of GSQs?
  1. How did you get started in that field?
  2. Is being a ____________ something you always wanted to do?
  3. That seems like an interesting profession. What do you enjoy about being a _____________?
  4. How long have you been in the ____________ field, and what has changed during that time?
  5. Do you see yourself doing that for the rest of your career?
  6. Is that a profession you would recommend to someone just starting out in their career today?
  7. Is that your dream job or is there something else you'd rather be doing?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Wednesday Wisdom My Valentine: Endless Love


We are most alive when we are in love.
John Updike


Here's a tale of two "love stories:"
Number 1. I was visiting some time ago with a woman in her early 70s. As we talked, she mentioned her children and grandchildren with fondness. Not hearing anything about her spouse, I asked, "What about your husband?"

"He died last year."
"Oh, I'm so sorry," I responded.
"Well I'm not. He was difficult, and I'm glad he's gone."
My heart broke for her and also for him. How tragic for those two lives.
* * * * *
Number 2. When it comes to love, let me be the first to acknowledge that I'm extremely fortunate and very spoiled. I've been living the dream - the Valentine's Day Dream - every day for the past 42½ years.
How did that happen? For starters, I married someone with sterling character. My wife Marcie personifies St. Paul's description of authentic love, and that permeates every facet of our relationship.
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." 1 Corinthians 13: 4-6
Second, we both do our best to live unselfishly, seeking the welfare of the other first. I love how H. Jackson Brown, Jr. and Katharine Hepburn each expressed this idea. "Love is when the other person's happiness is more important than your own." "Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get - only with what you are expecting to give - which is everything."
Many people admire the concept of living unselfishly in marriage but have a hard time doing it. It was my good fortune to find a beautiful woman who not only understands the importance of unselfishness but who also puts it into practice every day.
Third, we share the core belief that a loving, nourishing marriage has the capacity and the destiny to become eternal. Marcie and I believe our Heavenly Father honors faithful, devoted marriages and will perpetuate them beyond the grave. Irish novelist Cecelia Ahern accurately described our feelings.
"Finding someone you love and who loves you back is a wonderful, wonderful feeling. But finding a true soul mate is an even better feeling. A soul mate is someone who understands you like no other, loves you like no other, will be there for you forever, no matter what.  They say that nothing lasts forever, but I am a firm believer in the fact that for some, love lives on even after we're gone." 

When you believe in forever love, you treat your relationship differently than if you consider it temporary or transitory. You build differently when you build to last.
Thank you, Marcie, for showing me the meaning of endless love and eternal marriage. Happy Valentine's Day from your devoted and forever grateful husband!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Wednesday Wisdom: Workin' on Something Big, Part II - Who Do You Want to Serve?

Who Do You Want to Serve?        

"When you know who the people are you want to serve, it will be easier to decide how you want to allocate your time and your resources. Knowing who shall benefit from your work will automatically make it easier to decide what sort of work you might want to pursue."
Monika Kanokova

For most of my professional career I've been an innovator in the fields of estate planning, financial planning, and philanthropy. Many of those innovations led me over the past three decades to work with increasingly wealthier clients who could more readily afford my unique services. Those opportunities were interesting and heady indeed.

As a high-end innovator, I achieved a measure of recognition and success. I spoke on national platforms, wrote three professional books, visited some very exotic locations, and worked with some remarkable families. It was a joyful and rewarding time of my life, and I'm grateful for those relationships and those experiences.

About five years ago, however, I began to feel a yearning to stay a little closer to home and to direct my energies and skills toward middle-income families-those who have some resources but not a great deal of wealth. Those folks, who have a little but not a lot, who work hard and pay their bills and raise their families and try to prepare for the future, often feel that affordable and convenient professional services are hard to find. Whereas well-to-do families have lots of "helpers" trying to serve them, and there is an extensive safety net of free services for the poor, middle-income families are often left to fend for themselves.  

The more I considered their situation, the more I wanted to spend the remaining years of my career providing affordable and convenient professional services to middle-income families in Central Florida. It just seemed so RIGHT for who I am and what I want my work to be about.  

My efforts to do that for the past few years have been gratifying but not very efficient. I've spent a lot of time running the roads and spinning my wheels. I've been searching for a better way, and recently I found it.
A few months ago, I was looking for a quality wills and trusts attorney for one of my brothers in New Mexico, my home state. My quest led me to reconnect with Matt Urrea, a colleague from Albuquerque whose background is similar to mine.  

Matt has impeccable professional credentials and has spent much of his career working with high net-worth clients. Over a decade and a half ago, he too observed that middle-income families had few viable options for obtaining professional, affordable, and convenient estate planning services. He came to the conclusion that wills and trusts attorneys ought to be reaching out and making themselves more available to potential middle-income clients, who were increasingly avoiding traditional law firms and turning to the dangerous and impersonal world of on-line wills.  

In 2003, Matt offered a sensible alternative when he launched Walk-in Wills in a highly visible and easily accessible shopping center in Albuquerque, right between an ice cream parlor and a beauty shop. He offered middle-income families the opportunity to work with a real attorney with extensive experience. He offered free phone calls, straight-talk answers, and upfront, low-cost, flat-fee pricing. He offered prompt completion of his legal services. His business model turned out to be a smart solution to a vexing problem, resulting in many satisfied clients and a rewarding service experience for him.


When I saw Matt's office, I knew his approach would be a much better way to serve my clients. Fortunately for me, Matt was willing to work with me to build the first Walk-in Wills prototype outside of New Mexico. Creating my own Walk-in Wills office in Orlando has become my "Something Big." I've found renewed energy and abundant creativity. I haven't had this much fun in a long, long time.

I'm excited to announce that Walk-in Wills PLLC is now open in Orlando in a Publix shopping center at the very busy intersection of University and Dean Road, right off SR 417. Our address is 10069 University Boulevard, Orlando, FL 32817, and our telephone number is 407-725-7055.  

We offer professional, affordable, and convenient legal services for middle-income families and individuals. If you're among the 70% of adult Americans who need wills, living trusts, living wills, and more, we would be happy to help you. You're invited to call for an appointment, visit our website at www.WalkinWills.com , or better yet, why don't you just come by and "walk in" to our new office? We'd love to see you there.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wednesday Wisdom - Blessed are the Shepherds, for They Shall See Angels


"The First Noel the angel did say
Was to certain poor shepherds
in fields as they lay;
In fields as they lay, keeping their sheep,
On a cold winter's night that was so deep."

A lowly band of shepherds played a central role in St. Luke's account of the first Christmas.  

There were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

It was no accident or coincidence that humble shepherds were the first to learn of Christ's birth. It was not by chance that they "came with haste" to find the babe who would grow up to become "the Good Shepherd."  

It is in the nature of shepherds to love their sheep and to exhibit Christlike character as they minister to their flocks:
  • Shepherds succor the young, the ill, the aged, the hungry, the homeless, the handicapped.
  • Shepherds watch over the defenseless and the infirm through dark nights and dreary days.
  • Shepherds safeguard the lambs within the fold, then go in search of those who have wandered away from safety.
In today's world, very few people actually raise sheep, and fewer still tend them with a shepherd's care. But there are many who exhibit the biblical shepherds' character as they selflessly serve others. We know these modern-day "shepherds" by many names, including nurse, teacher, social worker, daycare attendant, mother, father, grandparent, friend, nursing home aide, minister, police officer, hospice worker, scout leader, homeless shelter attendant, EMT, godparent, doctor, and mental health counselor, to name a few.

I believe these caregivers who tend their "lambs" with love and tenderness will find peace on earth and good will, as promised by the heavenly host. I believe that in their labors these "shepherds" will be surrounded by angels - some of the heavenly variety and others in the form of the angelic young, ill, aged, hungry, homeless, and handicapped they care for.

I believe these present-day shepherds, like their ancient counterparts, will be led by their caring hearts and their kind, unheralded service to find the Christ Child, the Savior of the world. Did He not teach his disciples, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, ye have done it unto me"? Matthew 24: 40

During this celebratory season of the year, while the rest of us are "nestled all snug in [our] beds," let us not forget these modern-day shepherds, the caregivers and protectors who keep watch over their little flocks by night or day, who maintain their faithful vigil caring for the tender lambs and the vulnerable sheep.  

Thanks, you shepherds of today, for demonstrating Christlike love in your daily service. May His grace and blessings be upon you this Christmas season and always.

Merry Christmas from the Farnsworth Family and all of us at SunBridge and Personal Asset Advisors.