I’ve written a lot about my ‘council of advisors’. They are a group of primarily grey-haired men who are experts in their respective areas. They give me career advice and occasionally comment on general ‘life’ issues. Such council is important for everyone. The tough part is finding good advisors. I’m always amazed by the really bad advice that some folks get — and follow. How do you know when you are getting good avice? How do you know when your advisors are just full of crap? Those are tough questions, but here are some suggestions.
First, everybody who gives you advice on anything needs to pass the ‘sniff test’. Of course, you have to have enough basic common sense to be able to conduct such a test. For example, if your financial advisor tells you to put all of your money in to high yield (high risk) bonds, you should run. You should run because it’s crazy to put all of your money in one bucket esepecially if that bucket is incredibly leaky (due to high risk). You should also run if you have no idea what a high yield bond is and that advisor can’t explain it to you in a way that you understand. This kind of advice just smells bad.
Second, “judge not lest ye be judged“. I don’t mean to get all preachy on you, but I like this sentiment. There is some theological debate about the true meaning of this verse, but here is the meaning that rings most true for me. We all must make decisions about the character of others in order to know who is operating in our best interest and who is not. However, we must make those judgments fairly and without malice. Therefore, when figuring out which financial/tax/career advisor is the one for you, make decisions based on their true merits and not the superficial. You’re better than that.
Third, ask questions. There should be ‘no shame in your game’. Don’t let anyone talk circles around you. If you don’t understand something ask questions. If it still doesn’t make sense, ask more. If it STILL doesn’t make sense, find someone who can give you the answers you need in a language you can understand.
I think a lot of this also comes down to comfort level. You have to surround yourself with people who make you feel comfortable. You need to be able to let your hair down and be yourself. This goes for advisors as well as friends. Your true friends and advisors are the ones you call when you know you did something boneheaded yet they won’t make you feel small. Better still, they understand why you do what you do, don’t judge and help you to smooth out the rough edges.
All of my true friends and advisors fit that bill. However, tonight I’m thinking of one in particular. We have been friends for 30 years. Wow! I wish I could tell you that we talked every day or every week or even every month for those 30 years, but we haven’t. We’ve drifted in and out of each other’s lives but have always seemed to have picked up where we left off. She has seen me at my best and worst and the reverse is also true. We lift each other up and make each other laugh until we wet our pants. We have been on crazy ‘Thelma and Louise’ adventures and dried each others tears. I sat at her mother’s bedside in her last days on earth and she talked to me endlessly to help me retain my sanity during my grandmother’s last days.
Today I did a bunch of heavy lifting. Afterwards, I wasn’t feeling so hot and just needed to chat so I called my friend. I told her what I did and why I did it. She paused, took a deep breath and said “that’s what I’m talking about.” She is just as tough and independent as I am and knows that sometimes I just need to push myself a little harder just because I can and to remind everyone else that I can. She ‘gets’ that. She didn’t fuss at me for trying to be ‘Superwoman’ or threaten to call my surgeon. Now, she went on to tell me that she didn’t think too many more of these shenanigans were advisable, but she gave me a pass for today. Then we laughed about just how crazy we both can be. She’s one of very few girlfriends in my life who passes all of the tests. She’s my ‘boo’ and I love her dearly. That’s the type of person you need as part of your council. I hope you have one. I’m so very lucky and thankful to have mine. Love you Ang!