As the 4th of July holiday weekend approaches, think about the last vacation you took – a real vacation, unplugged, away from the computer, phone, and chaos. If you’re like most of the clients I work with, you probably haven’t taken a real vacation in a long time, right? Taking time to decompress and reflect can be beneficial for your health, stress levels, and relationships. Incidentally, it can make you a better advisor, too.
If we can’t step away from our jobs temporarily, how can we encourage our clients to step away from their jobs completely?
Even if it’s just for a few days, being away from your work can give you a glimpse into the future experience of your client who is facing retirement. You can put yourself in their shoes and empathize more deeply with the worry and stress they are feeling about being away from what has been such an important part of their life – work.
Let me challenge you – just for this holiday weekend – try it. Here are some tips:
Put your out of office message on, and live up to it – unplug. Turn your phone off and put it in a drawer. Tune in to the people you care about and the experiences you’re involved in. Don’t numb out by looking at email or scrolling through social media. Experience your life and the places in the day where you feel the pull of your phone to stave off boredom or uncertainty or to buffer difficult conversations with others.
Notice the excuses that come into your mind to keep you from doing this:
“My kids might need me.”
“I have a deal in the works.”
“How will I know what time the movie starts if I’m not looking it up on my phone.”
“Just a peek to check the right way to hard boil an egg or that recipe for a perfect …”
“I’m just clearing those emails out so I won’t be overwhelmed after the long weekend.”
Yes, I’m outing myself in these statements! I’ve thought of versions of each of them for myself.
Admit it, you have your own version of these “excuses” to stay plugged into work or your device, instead of plugged into your family or the moment you are actually in. And so does your client – in fact, it’s a big part of what keeps them from being willing to step toward exiting their business or retiring. In essence, each of these excuses are elements of FOMO (fear of missing out, for those of you who’ve never seen that abbreviation before!) and are indicative of how much you will struggle when it’s time to let go into your own exit or retirement.
Become the kind of Trusted Advisor your clients really need – one who has faced his or her own fears about these issues so you can accompany them through these very real and very normal elements of their transition.
You’re already a skilled professional, steeped in the transactional elements – now it’s time to get dialed into the very real emotional experience of the transition they are undergoing. Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk, friends! That’s what will help you separate yourself from the hordes of other professionals who you’re competing with – the nuanced skills you bring that help create comfort for your client, so they can tell you what they’re really struggling with – and you can help them find solutions.
Every weekend I take a 36 hour “electronic pause” – either Friday evening to Sunday morning or Saturday evening to Monday morning – I unplug completely. No phone, no tablet, no Kindle, no computer, no tv. It helps me notice all the dozens of times my brain tries to trick me into using a device, instead of being present with the people and experiences in front of me. It also helps me to notice areas of my life where I can grow – other than my work.
It’s taken me time to develop the discipline to stick with this and I challenge clients to do a modified version of this as they begin to prepare for their exit. And, yes, every one of them resists doing this!
In one part of my book, The Seller’s Journey, the characters have to put their devices in a lock box before they head out onto the glacier. One of them has a big ol’ meltdown being separated from his device. It’s a metaphor for what our clients will face when no one is calling them on the other side of their exit.
Many of our clients haven’t even finished a full round of golf in years because they are interrupted with something “urgent” from the office. Many of you haven’t had a fully unplugged vacation – or even an uninterrupted meal! – in years either. My own experience with this practice of unplugging helps me to stay compassionate with clients’ struggles on the journey of transition away from their business and into their own version of “What’s Next?” My own experience with it helps me reassure them that the feelings they are experiencing are normal and there are solutions other than just delaying their exit or retirement.
Will you join me this holiday weekend in giving it a try? You might not go the entire weekend unplugged like I will, but even a couple hours will give you a profound experience of what your client might be feeling and allow you to help them get ready when they are worrying about falling into a Black Hole on the other side of their exit.
Let me know what you learn from your experiment with this.