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10,000 Hours

I am thinking a lot at the moment about the route to becoming a top end financial planner.  It is partly the work I am doing with Nextgen planners but I am also interested in this anyway.  I have always had a chip on my shoulder about age in financial planning.  As a young planner, I have obviously had the mantra that if you are good enough, you are old enough.

What is “Good Enough”

This is a question I have recently been pondering.  Without any real professional standard of meaning, it is something I struggled with until I read a book that gave me huge clarity on the subject.  The book is Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.  If you haven’t read it, I suggest it goes to the top of your list, it is brilliant.

In the book, Gladwell talks about the 10,000 hours theory which basically says that in order to become a master of your subject, you need 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.  He gave many examples, but the one that stuck in my mind was Bill Gates.  Everyone assumed Bill Gates was an overnight success but in reality in order to learn his craft he spent a huge amount of time coding at a computer terminal with his friends before the acorns of Microsoft were even formed.  More than that  though, it became an obsession for him and in fact the 10,000 hours was not only deliberate practice but a fanatical obsession.  There is a also an interesting story about the Beatles that not many will know.

Here is a great video from Gates to explain it –

My 10,000 hours

Now if I relate this to my journey in financial planning.  I am not comparing myself to Bill Gates in any stretch of the imagination but I am often asked how long or what does it take to become a top financial planner and I genuinely believe now that the 10,000 hours holds true.  You can break that down into days and hours if you want (I calculated around 6-7 years) but the fact is that since I entered this profession around 12 years ago, I was obsessed with studying the “art of financial Planning”.  I have probably read over 40 books on related subjects and I am constantly on the hunt for new ideas or ways to improve my skill. Anyone who meets me can’t shut me up about it. The idea of “Always Learning” is important to me.  

If you think that doing your minimum of 35 hours CPD is enough, then I am afraid you won’t win.  In the last few months alone, I probably spend on average around 60-70 hours either working on or thinking about this stuff. It is always on my mind and unfortunately I can’t help it.

So what does this mean for young planners?

You have to be obsessed.

It means you have to be obsessed I am afraid.  You have to go beyond the minimum as that is now the average and no one really wants to be average.  You have to look at who is successful in the field and learn from them.  I will have a cheeky £10 with any of you that it didn’t come easy to any of them and they shattered the 10,000 hour rule before they felt comfortable about their craft.  You never get to see the amount of work that goes in behind the scenes.  

You need to always learn

Whether it is in client meetings as a paraplanner, reading books on marketing (my favourite) or listening to relevant podcasts on your way to work or at lunch, every opportunity to learn and get close to your obsession is a priority.  This 10,000 hours won’t come easily and you need to make sure you don’t burn out and pick your learning methods well.  Quite a bit of it will include exams and studying but you have to go beyond this.  Good financial planners don’t succeed because of exams or qualifications.  They succeed because they are passionate about the art of financial planning and learning about people.  They understand the softer skills, the sales and marketing aspect and how to hold meaningful conversations.

You need to be patient but the rewards are there

There is no way around this I am afraid.  You have to be dedicated to being obsessed and learning and this takes time.  I am starting to see a trend of really good financial planners in their late 20s and early 30s becoming very successful.  The future is bright for those planners and anyone younger because we are entering a golden age where top financial planners will be very successful and average ones will likely be threatened by Technology (my opinion).

I am not saying that you cannot be fairly successful as a financial planner if you do the minimum but as we enter the age where potentially technology is a threat to your future livelihood, it is more important than ever to be a s**t hot financial planner.  Clients deserve it and are crying out for people who understand them and have their best interests at heart.  Despite what anyone tells you, they don’t mind paying for them either.  

It is clear to me that if you are dedicated to this path, the rewards are there to be had.

So here is a question.  Have you done your 10,000 hours?

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