Industry (and Life) Lessons from U2
When I am out on one of my weekly long runs, I try to listen to music to make the time and miles go by faster. It doesn’t always help as you get deep into a 15-mile (or longer) run, but one of my favorite bands to listen to is U2. They have stood the test of time in my mind, creating music that multiple generations love. Their songs can be provocative, thoughtful and political. While I enjoy the music, I don’t always agree with their political stance. However, I still listen to hear Bono’s soulful voice and the great rhythms and melodies provided by the band that helps me finish a long run. I try to find a cadence of my steps that matches one of their songs.
I am an early riser. I like to hit the ground running – sometimes literally. On my run days, I start at 4:30 a.m. with a goal of hitting the street by 5:00-5:15. On Saturday, I schedule my longest run, which ranges anywhere between 10-22 miles.
Having moved to Florida in 2021, I have a much higher appreciation of the toll that heat takes on your body and its performance. While I would much rather spend the tranquil morning hours running and seeing other people, the lush greenery and beautiful blue skies, I find the heat too unbearable for the endurance part of training. So, I try to start my Saturday well before the sun comes up to be able to enjoy cooler temperatures for an hour or so before the sun rises and heats the air quickly. When I run at dark, I usually don’t plug into my music as I want to listen for traffic and the potential wildlife that is so prevalent in Southwest Florida (and it’s being relocated due to all the new construction in the area, making a bobcat active in our neighborhood).
This past weekend, I started at 5:15 a.m. on Saturday and choose not to have music as I was running close to some wooded areas and also some high traffic areas. It was a perfect Florida winter morning – 62 degrees with just a slight breeze. The last 20 minutes of the run consisted of a great light display from the sunrise. I’m not sure what is different about a tropical sunrise, but the colors of orange, purple and blue just look different and refreshing. Being outside helps me think and burn off the week’s stress. It’s always been a great outlet but makes me a terrible running partner – that and running at 5:00 a.m.
This run seemed a little easier than recent long runs. I’m sure the weather had something to do with it, but it was really the music in my head that seemed to keep my spirits up until the sun rose. And that’s what was cool. I had this one song playing over and over in my head without wearing my earbuds. I couldn’t remember when I listened to the song to make it resonate with me so much on this particular run. So, I started to listen to the words going through my mind. It made sense due to all the struggles our industry has right now with the current economy and the bias toward managed money. I’m not sure what U2 was thinking when they wrote the song,” I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight,” but I can make some analogies toward our industry.
Obviously, the entire song did not run through my head the last five miles, but some key lines would not leave me alone.
1. “There’s a part me in chaos that’s quiet and there is a part of you that wants me to riot.”
All of our clients probably feel that they want us to call immediately when something happens in the equity market. But the true professional is that quiet, rational, steady voice that prevents us from rioting against our retirement funds.
2. “How can you stand next to the truth and not see it.”
This line really stuck with me. As a wholesaler for most of my career, I feel the frustration in this line all the time. We show advisors the results of 5,000 simulations and the high probability of increasing the retirement incomes for so many Americans. Yet, most advisors and firms are caught up in building recurring revenue even though the use of protected income grows their assets under management. We execute marketing campaigns and teach our wholesalers the intricacies of income planning, but most advisors probably don’t want to know the truth, so they choose to not see it.
3. “Oh, change of heart comes slow.”
How true! With my frustration about ongoing education not moving the needle on how to properly plan for retirement, there has never been a truer line written. Change comes slow…but it does come. Unfortunately for many Americans, change will come too late. It will come after a market correction, after a tax code change or after some event that costs the American population trillions of dollars.
4. “It’s not a hill, it’s a mountain as you start the climb.”
No matter what we are changing, it always (ALWAYS) feels like a mountain when you start. So many of us have an aging clientele and it’s time for us to change the way we manage the relationship. We are amid the greatest shift from the workforce to retirement in the history of the United States. That means our planning needs to change. A shift seems like an insurmountable obstacle, but we must take those initial baby steps toward the right way to plan for our clients’ needs. No matter how tall the mountain seems, once momentum builds it feels like a small hill.
5. “Every generation has a chance to change the world. Pity the nation that won’t listen to you boys and girls. Is the sweetest melody the one we haven’t heard?”
We all have a chance to change our clients’ lives and their future generations with proper planning. And I pity our nation when it doesn’t properly take care of its elderly or transfer its wealth efficiently with the least amount of taxation possible. All of that is totally possible with planning and understanding.
All of us have gone crazy at some point in time but it is more important to think about how to channel our adrenaline with our clients in a positive light. We have the power to change lives and impact multiple generations if done properly. It seems like a daunting task, but we need to focus on the eight hours that we must work today. Start by asking: What do I need to do now to impact the clients I am talking to today?
Listen to your inner voice. Try new things and be open to change along with people who can help you climb the mountain at first. In doing so, you will help more people that will result in tremendous growth in your business.