Breakaway Doctors and Teachers

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What makes a successful wealth advisor?

As someone who spends almost every waking moment trying to identify and support successful wealth advisors, that’s a question I’m constantly asking myself.

Research by Yale and Swarthmore professors offers intriguing insights about what might make an effective wealth advisor, and more importantly, a successful, happy person.


What Makes You Tick?

The researchers found that people who are “internally” motivated are more likely to have long-term success and live content lives. These individuals are inspired to do something because of their genuine interest in learning more, doing something better or helping others.

People with an “instrumental” motivation are driven more by the attention, accolades or gain from their accomplishments. In many instances, people are both “internal” and “instrumental” focused, but the research shows that people with both motives are not as successful as people with an internal motivation.

The takeaway from this research is that people with an “internal” motivation have a lasting sense of accomplishment and success. The love of their profession truly inspires them.

Those with an “instrumental” motivation are constantly churning and looking for the next big win. It’s a never-ending cycle of wins and losses.


The Wealth Advisor Persona

The description of an “instrumental” motivation almost perfectly describes most successful wealth advisors I’ve known. Wall Street has always attracted individuals who want to make more money, have a bigger office, or own a bigger house.

Contrast that with teachers and or primary care doctors. These folks aren’t in the business because they want to become rich. They’re in it because they want to help people. They have an “internal” motivation.

Which got me thinking about the most successful wealth advisors I know. In running through my list, I was surprised to see how many advisors on my all-world team were “internally” motivated.

When you meet them, you can’t help but immediately notice that they are truly unique individuals – memorable and refreshing. They love helping others. They also seem to have a never-ending source of glowing referrers.  

They’re successful because they’re motivated by something other than money, fame or prestige. In fact, their hearts are fully in their work, and they understand their job is taking care of people – making the lives of others better.

It’s a nice way to live and a roadmap for personal and professional success.


Nature or Nuture?

In my view, what motivates you is part nature and nurture. Some people are born with an internal compass. In others, it’s cultivated.

In my own case, I’ve moved from “instrumental” to “internal” over the years.

How did that happen?

First, it was the result of more life experience. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve paid much more attention to who I want to be, how I can become a better person and how I can positively influence others.

Second, it was product of a failure. The inflection point for me was when I hit a bump in my career. It was an opportunity for introspection. I came out the other end a better person, professional, husband and father.


What Motivates You?

We all need to take responsibility for developing ourselves. That journey can be painful at times, but it is well worth the effort.  The process will benefit you and everyone in your life.

When I worked on Wall Street, I would always tell people resigning to join another firm that the grass is brown everywhere. I never appreciated how accurate that was until now.

If you’re going to chase fleeting goals, you’re probably never going to be happy.



Jeff Spears is Founder and CEO of Sanctuary Wealth Services and author of the blog, Wealth Consigliere.  Follow Jeff on Twitter and Facebook.


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