When someone greets you by asking, “What’s new?” the big names in the news—like Martha Stewart—may come to mind, but not so in the great state of Ohio. On the front page of the Dayton Daily News we learn that the members of the Ohio House of Representatives are locked in a serious debate over whether the American toad or the mighty bullfrog should be named the state amphibian. Now this is a nail-biter I want no part of—although I am partial to the toad because it is easier to catch and observe. Those darn bullfrogs are just too fast.
Another story, written by Gregory Ramey, Ph.D., discusses how positive attention and approval can be habit forming. This starts during childhood with praise, rewards and recognition. We all want and need people to notice us, he argues, and at times, we feel our self-worth is measured by the opinions of others. What we purchase can be influenced by how we think others might react. The cars we drive, the homes we live in, the clothes we wear and the organizations we join make a statement about who we are.
Balance in your life seems to produce the most satisfying happiness for the longest period of time.
Calculating our worth
This got me thinking about what drives the financial advisor. Successful advisors can feel good about what they have achieved for many reasons. For one, they have more financial options than they did as rookies. Also, the more they accomplish, the more chances they have of receiving special compliments from others. In fact, these compliments drive some people more than the financial rewards. It can even become difficult at times for these folks to control the need for approval. They can push themselves too hard and can be tough on themselves when they compare their businesses to more productive ones.
Fueling this need for recognition, insurance companies create many incentives to motivate their sales force, including summer contests, cruises, different ribbons reflecting the number of policies written or the different premium levels achieved, and plaques and certificates of all styles to reflect the sales accomplishments reached in a year. It is all designed to provide recognition, and it works.
The other side of success
Still, striving to be No. 1 all the time can be mentally unhealthy, and it is difficult to enjoy success when you are unhealthy. It may be better to concentrate on a balanced life—even with a slightly smaller income—than to be aggravated and frustrated while chasing unrealistic, materialistic goals solely designed to produce more money and greater recognition.
Striving for higher standards, seeking a sense that your services are valuable, and that your actions make a difference is honorable. Suffering from an insatiable desire for approval is a problem. Always feeling that you could and should be able to do better, being a perfectionist, or wanting to be the center of attention has its limits.
We all know people who have to surround themselves with extravagant possessions such as luxury cars, boats and homes to the point at which they do not have any cash or investments. It is not uncommon for their creative borrowing skills to eventually bankrupt them. Extreme borrowing for personal consumption and ego approval is problematic and has been compared to habit-forming drugs. After the thrill of a new purchase wears off, an unhappy person becomes, well, unhappy again. All that person is left with is the debt the purchase created.
So what does this all amount to? Look at Martha Stewart. She appeared to be obsessed with money and the power and recognition it gave her—and look at what happened. She now faces jail time and the collapse of her media empire because she foolishly believed the rules did not apply to her when she attempted to protect what amounted to .03 percent of her total assets.
As unexciting as it may seem, balance in your life seems to produce the most satisfying happiness for the longest period of time. Don’t eat too much, refrain from over-spending if you don’t have the cash, be sure to exercise regularly, but in moderation, and save a lot. After all, you may need the money more in the future than you do now.
Alexander J. Scholp, CLU, is a member of Dayton AIFA (Ohio). Address comments to him at 2090 State Route 725, Spring Valley, OH 45307.