Golfing legend Gary Player often tells an audience his secret to positive, purposeful living. Says Player: “Every morning when I get up, I look in the mirror and say to myself, ‘Gary, today you can be happy, or you can be miserable.’ I choose happy!” What about you? What if your whole day—maybe your life—depends on the choice we make and which choice the client in front us made earlier in the day.
What are you choosing? Israeli anthropology professor Yuval Noah Harari, in his 2014 book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind offers insight. He notes in one of the last chapters of what I thought was a page-turning read, that chemistry plays a huge part in what happiness means. Some people are simply wired to be more optimistic; others gloomy. And the gloomy personalities, no matter how good the news or cheery the weather may broach a smile for a moment, but then the gloom returns.
Sobering, to say the least! So my first reaction is to check my own “happiness meter” to read what is going on with my chemistry. People who know me well will tell you I am a relatively optimistic, glass-half-full person. Yes, times of challenge and disappointment assail me like they do all of us, but my disposition cannot stay there long. What about you? Professor Harari has me thinking that all of us in the people business would be wise to make peace with who we are and whether or not we are choosing happy even though our dopamine and serotonin levels may tilt us to gloomy. Staying in this business and being effective may require choosing happy.
Clients may not be so aware. If Harari is anywhere close to being right, every client with whom we visit leans naturally either toward being optimistic on the one hand or gloomy on the other. Have we taken the time or invested in the energy to make that assessment, not in a judgmental way, but to understand the individual sitting in front of us? If not, I would encourage you to start making those evaluations as closely as you monitor a client’s risk tolerance.
In practice, the prospect or client in front of you, at that moment, is the only person who matters.
If you sense that man or woman genuinely chooses happy, you have a different kind of conversation about market volatility and planning than with someone who usually sees every glass half empty. “Know Your Client” has an entirely different referent when you make these kinds of mental notes with each person you serve.
When you sense a person gravitating towards gloom, ask them to talk about their concerns. Respond to them with both validation and education. It is almost impossible to fight the chemistry, but you can be positive about addressing misinformation that cripples many and weakens more than a few. On the other hand, if the client leans into happy, times are you will need to temper an unrealistic optimism reminding him or her that markets change and volatility is a tenured resident.
More than anything, however, is our need to monitor our own life outlook remembering that the people we serve need us to lead them, support them, and understand them even when their chemistry fights happy. So get in touch with your chemistry and own what it is. Take Gary Player’s advice and choose happy. Then notice how life, work, and relationships take on new and surprising energy.