The Myth of "I Can't"

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By Nate Biddick, manager, Practice Consulting Group, 1st Global

What you believe is the most important thing about you. To accomplish something you never accomplished before, you need to challenge those beliefs. As the 1st Global Practice Consulting group works with advisors and firms in our various coaching and consulting programs, we find the biggest challenge they face in elevating their firms or practices to the next level is not time or fear of moving outside of their comfort zone – it is believing that this new level of success is within their personal power to achieve – that it’s attainable.

One of the first steps of our process is to mirror a conversation they would have with a client – naming and defining what goals the client is looking to accomplish. What is the goal of your firm? What does a better version of your firm look like in the future? What is your commitment and motivation to accomplish that vision? Why is that vision important to you?

Those last two are the most important questions of all because they dig the conversation down below to the very root of their “WHY?”

Once the goal is defined, the work begins toward achieving it. This is the work that will get an advisor across the finish line: planning a seminar, increasing client appointments and retooling their service model to increase client referrals and introductions. 

Those are the tasks but the real work here is negotiating the current state of the firm versus a future one. The firm must accept that what got them here will not get them there.

This is the moment in our coaching engagements where the excuses start to arrive. It’s fairly easy to name an ideal future state, but it’s much more difficult to sustain the work that will get you there. When we don’t do what we said we would do a major trap-door appears as a reason for not getting things done – abdicating personal responsibility. This creates a habit of putting excuses in the place of truth.

Most Common “I Can’t” Excuses

As behaviors become incongruent with the stated goal, there are generally three main ways “can’t” begins to rear its ugly head.

·         “I can’t … didn’t have enough time.” 

o   Agreed: The unexpected comes up in business all the time. “Must do” client situations occur and developing a work-life balance is important.

o   Truth: Ultimately, we choose what we work on. Working on your business is a discipline. All or nothing thinking when it comes to the subject of time is false — you may not have had enough time this particular week, but that is no reason to give up that hour you set on your calendar the following week to plan.

·         “I can’t … keep track of my activities. It takes too long. I know what I do.”

o   Agreed: Whether it’s taking client appointments or even something as simple as tracking your time, it does take a little time to sit down and keep track of what you do.

o   Truth: We all struggle remembering accurately what we do on a weekly basis because we are so busy doing it. This is why we ask advisors to write it down.  When we institute appointment activity tracking with a firm, advisors are typically surprised by the actual numbers. Most of the time, it’s due to being so busy that perspective is lost. Occasionally, an advisor reacts strongly to being asked to measure what they do. In most of these cases, measurement challenges a belief that the advisor is protecting in spite of the facts.

·         ”I can’t.  I’m not good at ________.”

o   Disagree: We disagree with the premise of defeatist statements like this.

o   Truth: When a person makes a statement like this, they are accepting the present state of their skills as the eternal state. What is really being said in this statement is, “I’m not willing to put in the work to get better at this.” Again, this is a choice, no matter how you rationalize it.

Rationalization is the substitution of excuses for reason. Over time, this leads to resignation — giving up — unless brought to a conscious level and this habit is exposed as a barrier to achievement.

In an honest assessment of the gap between present state and desired future state — with personal responsibility as its keystone — “can't” is always "won't." Viewing the world through the lens of personal responsibility for everything (yes, everything) is overwhelming to think about until you do it because when you accept the fact of personal responsibility you are empowered.

Keep in mind the personal dynamics reviewed above apply to your clients as well. You have faced the myth of “I can’t” with many of your clients. Think of the power a well-defined value proposition contains for moving families to take personal responsibility for their futures through tax-optimized financial planning. Compare that message to the TV commercials for other financial services providers who focus solely on their features of their businesses and advice.

In order to lead your clients to this value, you must demonstrate personal responsibility yourself – you must rid yourself of “I can’t.” Whether it is taking a step to have your own formal personal financial plan, making more intentional choices about time or simply catching yourself in your excuses, making a small start can lead to big changes. Remember: “Whatever you do may seem insignificant to you, but it is most important that you do it.”  This advice comes from Mahatma Gandhi: a person who challenged what many believed to be impossible—and a person who truly believed that “I can’t” is a myth.

Nate Biddick is manager of 1st Global’s Practice Consulting group. Nate’s primary objective is to empower advisors to advance to the next level within their financial services practice by serving clients better and more completely.

1st Global Capital Corp. is a member of FINRA and SIPC and is headquartered at 12750 Merit Dr., Suite 1200 in Dallas, Texas, 75251; 214-294-5000. Investment advisory services offered through 1st Global Advisors, Inc., an SEC-Registered Investment Adviser. Additional information about 1st Global is available at



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