I’ve recently finished rereading The Dice Man by Luke Reinhart. It’s a black comedy which takes as its principle the idea of what would happen if our choices we mainly determined by chance – by the roll of the dice. What would happen if we gave up control over our lives.
However, because we set the options of what happens on each possible roll, we do retain a degree of control. And so what the book really examines is what options we give ourselves to choose from.
Let’s Play Dice
So let’s play. You can put down six options of what you could do next. The only rule is you MUST obey the die. What would you put down? How about these options:
If it’s a one, read the rest of this article.
If a two, stop reading this article and go swimming.
If a three, punch the next person that you see.
If a four, kiss the next person that you see.
If a five, book a weekend in Copenhagen at the next opportunity.
If a six, book ballroom dancing lessons at the next opportunity.
So if I gave you a die to roll, would you accept those options? Would you do whichever on that list the die told you to?
I’m guessing your answer would be no. Why not? You don’t want to punch someone, yet Luke Reinhart would say this would force you out of your comfort zone, which (he suggests) is a good thing. Number three might be something you’d really like to do, but society would frown upon it. Number four might be something you’d never dream of doing, but it could give you an experience you’ve never had before.
The point is this: You wouldn’t obey the roll of this die because I gave you the options. If you gave yourself six options, you would be more likely to obey the die. You might put in one that is outrageous but secretly excites you, and perhaps one you would never normally do but isn’t going to harm anyone else. The options would be yours, the chance would be limited to the outcomes that you would choose.
What Is Success?
There are two types of success (according to Luke). The first type is one we choose. Suppose we gave a child a pile of bricks. Success might be building a house out of those bricks. Or success could be knocking down that house into a pile of bricks. It’s up to the child to choose. Success simply means whether we have managed to satisfy a desire that we have set for ourselves.
The second type of success or failure is one which is externally decided – satisfying a desire set by someone else. How many of our actions are truly to satisfy our own desires? How much of what we do is to make our parents proud; to impress a member of the opposite sex; to make our children proud; because it is what we think is expected of us.
The idea of the dice, then, is to remove the notion of success and failure as determined by others, and instead focus on the first type of success – the one that we choose.
In a way, this is the objective of coaching skills when used by financial advisers. To focus the client on what success and failure means to them. To reveal true objectives and motivations.
Real Client Objectives
When clients come to see us, their objectives are always, to some extent or another, determined by external factors. These might include:
What they think we want to hear (“I expect my investments to beat the markets”)
By what they have read (“I want to buy a flat to rent out”)
By popular notions (“I want to retire at 65”)
By peer pressure (“My attitude to investment risk? I’m not sure – what does everyone else say?”)
By a lack of knowledge (“I expect my investments to beat the markets”)
In The Dice Man, when people first use the dice, they write down options that they think are acceptable. They tend to be meek. When people consult the dice, they tend to give themselves options based on their current understanding of what is and isn’t acceptable, as judged by other people.
Is this a danger in what we do as financial advisers, I wonder? Do we give advice based upon what someone tells us they want, without challenge or seeking clarification?
I would suggest our role should be similar to that of the dice. We should challenge and seek options. We should use good interpersonal skills to help the client uncover true objectives and motivations. We can then plot a path to a future the client didn’t know was possible before they came to see us.
Quiver Management run courses to teach advisers coaching skills: https://shop.quivermanagement.com/collections/coaching-skills-for-financial-planners