Anyone who knows me will not be surprised to hear that I read “Atomic Habits”…again. In 2018, James Clear wrote this remarkable book that has reportedly been purchased every 15 minutes since publication*. Additionally, his 3-2-1 Thursday newsletter is followed by more than 2 million people. Before I finish this blog, he will have sold a couple more books!
Why is it such a great book and so widely read and referenced? Well, he has organized dozens of concepts into a compelling approach to building better habits. It is digestible and actionable.
James offers hundreds of powerful quotes and thoughts, so it is hard to imagine implementing them all. But here’s one I find particularly compelling, which is relevant for financial advisors: “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”
Think about it. We can have the grandest aspirations, but unless we change our approach for how to reach them, we will never move from where we are today to the level we envision. Systems are important infrastructure in the adoption of habits and achievement of our goals.
Systems: A Pillar of a Financial Services Firm
I believe businesses thrive on a predictable cadence and rhythm. Said another way, consistency matters and it has a compounding effect across an organization when everyone has a clear sense of the firm’s goals and objectives. It is critically important that leadership has a consistent approach to setting, communicating, and assigning goals and following up on the activities required to achieve them.
To systematically manage our own firm, Blueprint Investment Partners utilizes a process called the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS). Thanks to the success we have experienced and seen within financial advisory practices that use EOS, I have also implemented this system at another company with which I’m associated. It has dramatically improved our progress by creating transparency and clarity around our group and individual goals, which we set together each quarter. Religiously. To ensure success, we have a meeting every week to review our goals and milestones. Religiously. It’s not the goals per se, it’s the system.
Systems: A Pillar of Investing
It took me a few years to fully appreciate the benefits of a systematic investing approach.
Like most investors, I have goals for what I want to achieve with my investments. Despite being in the private wealth space for more than 30 years, I still do not have the best habits as it pertains to investing. Perhaps like the cobbler and his own shoes, I believe I am much better at advising others. This is why I appreciate the systematic investing process Blueprint uses: it removes emotion, predictions, and gut feelings from the investing equation and replaces them with repeatable rules that answer all questions about what, when, and how much to buy and sell. In other words, Blueprint deploys a system (yes, religiously!) that seeks to help investors reach their long-term goals.
Again, it’s not the goals, it’s the systems.
Systems: A Pillar of Habit-Building
One final concept is a system I have used successfully to implement a new habit. It’s called habit stacking.
This is an approach to implementing a new habit by placing that habit in front of an existing habit you already do regularly. A couple of years ago I wanted to improve my physical flexibility and learn to meditate, so now I stretch and meditate almost every morning before I allow myself to have coffee. Because morning coffee is a habit I love and will always enjoy! Now I love stretching and meditating too. It’s the system that made that possible.
Systems: Important Infrastructure for Financial Advisors
Better habits and supportive systems are solutions to a lot of the goals financial advisors have or the challenges they face. Take a moment to check out James Clear’s work if you have not already.
Good luck systematically improving your habits, and perhaps your investments as well.
*tim.blog, “James Clear, Atomic Habits — Simple Strategies for Building (and Breaking) Habits, Questions for Personal Mastery and Growth, Tactics for Writing and Launching a Mega-Bestseller, Finding Leverage, and More (#648),” 5/18/2023