Most classic success stories go something like this: “I had nothing, then discovered a new way of thinking, turned my life around and got everything I ever wanted.” I could tell you one such story. I went from debt and depression to everything I thought I ever wanted—in the space of about two years. I got the money, the house, the car: the life of my dreams. But that’s not really what this is about.
I’m now a successful financial advisor, and so I often get invited to other companies to speak to their advisors—and I’m usually expected to tell them how they can get more too. The question I’ll always ask is, “How many of you remember thinking that if you could make $100,000 a year, you’d have everything you thought you’d ever want?” I then ask them to go back 15 or 20 years, when they were just starting out, and thinking, “If I could just make that $100,000, I’d be happy, life would be smooth sailing and everything would be perfect.” More often than not, every person raises their hand and says they remember thinking that. My next question is “How many people feel today the way they thought they’d feel when they got the $100,000?” It’s very rare that I look out and see someone with his or her hand raised.
Many of us have been taught to focus on getting the big dollars and the big job, but we rarely come to understand that what we get really has nothing to do with what we want to get. If you’re solely focused on what you want to get, chances are you’ll get nothing. But when you figure out what you want to give and what you want to be—you can then have whatever you want.
One day, I was getting out of my car and about to walk into a prospect's house to try and sell a term life policy. I was way behind on my bills, and my mind was going on and on about how much I needed the sale. Desperation poured out of me as I caught my reflection in the car window. I stopped, looked hard at that reflection and said to myself, "Who would want to buy anything from you? Look at how desperate you look!"
In that moment, I decided to drop my desperate, needy attitude and walk into this prospect's house with the confidence of someone who didn't want anything. I took one last look at my reflection and saw that I had taken on an air of serenity, and that's when I began to realize that deep down there was nothing for me to get. I dropped my need to make a sale. I became still and quiet. I soon began to approach more of my clients this way, putting all my attention on them, without any desire or expectation for myself personally. And to my amazement, my meetings really started to transform and my success as a financial advisor grew exponentially.
From my observations and experience as a financial advisor, it seems that many people are in the same rut that I was in. They know what they want to get, but no one along the way ever told them that they’d have to be willing to give something first. Although it sounds like a bit of a cliché, I was able to see firsthand as I was going through my own crisis around wealth and success that the more I gave to others; the more I received in return. I quickly began accomplishing more in the world and my income grew substantially.
Unfortunately, too many of us spend our whole lives waiting to get something from the world so that we can show up as the person we always knew we could be. Deep in our hearts we think there's something missing. But when we flip that mindset, we can discover that by becoming a giver rather than a taker, we can become agents for change in the world. In the end, it was only through giving to others that I was able to find the kind of happiness that I was really looking for. This is one of the main things I learned when I began to look for what might lie “beyond success.”
Adapted from Beyond Success: Redefining the Meaning of Prosperity - © 2009 Jeffrey L. Gitterman - All rights reserved - Published by AMACOM Books - A Division of the American Management Association - www.amacombooks.org.
Jeff Gitterman is an award winning financial advisor and the CEO of Gitterman & Associates Wealth Management, LLC. www.gawmllc.com. In 2004, he was honored by Fortune Small Business Magazine as "One of Our Nation's Best Bosses," and his first book, Beyond Success; Redefining the Meaning of Prosperity, was recently published by the American Management Association (AMACOM) www.BeyondSuccessConsulting.com .
Over the past several years, Jeff has been featured in Money Magazine, CNN, Financial Advisor, London Glossy, Affluent Magazine, and New Jersey Business Journal, among others. He also serves as chairman of the advisory board to the Autism Center of New Jersey Medical School, an organization that has raised over a million dollars to date for autism research and support services.