There’s a great degree of discomfort, and even fear, attached to the unknown. That’s why so many choose to hang on to the status quo, because there is a familiarity and comfort there—despite the likelihood that greater potential may await elsewhere.
Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to make a change, yet were uncomfortable about or afraid of what the actual outcome might be? So instead, you allow momentum to move you along, all the while trying to ignore the signs around you – harbingers of a changing environment – that is, until you just can’t avoid the signals and your own thoughts any longer.
As part of his 2009 book, “Warriors of the Heart: A Handbook for Conflict Resolution,” author Danaan Perry wrote “The Parable of the Trapeze,” in which he likened change to a series of swings on a trapeze:
Most of the time, I spend my life hanging on for dear life to my trapeze-bar-of-the-moment. It carries me along at a certain steady rate of swing and I have the feeling that I’m in control of my life. . . .
But every once in a while as I’m merrily (or even not-so-merrily) swinging along, I look out ahead of me into the distance and what do I see? I see another trapeze bar swinging toward me. It’s empty and I know, in that place in me that knows, that this new trapeze bar has my name on it. It is my next step, my growth, my aliveness coming to get me. In my heart of hearts I know that, for me to grow, I must release my grip on this present, well known bar and move to the new one.
I share this parable because it illustrates the emotional journey that anyone who is considering change goes through. Yet I find it particularly relevant to advisors, because so many we talk with tell us that while they may not be content where they are, the thought of changing firms or models makes them feel even more uncomfortable.
Put another way, there’s a great degree of discomfort, and even fear, attached to the unknown. That’s why so many choose to hang on to the status quo, because there is a familiarity and comfort there—despite the likelihood that greater potential may await elsewhere.
But once you’ve seen that proverbial bar swinging towards you, it’s impossible to “unsee it”—it just continues to beckon you.
Consider this: You’re having a good year—production is up, you brought in a number of meaningful new clients and you’re living a balanced life that allows you to spend time with family and friends.
Yet there are things that just don’t seem quite right.
Complaints from support staff are increasing. Clients are asking for more than your firm allows you to deliver on. Attempts at marketing and self-branding are being thwarted by compliance. And the firm continues to tweak compensation to incentivize cross-selling proprietary solutions.
At the same time, you’re hearing about trusted colleagues who are leaving their firms. Some moved on to other wirehouses, others to boutique firms, and some chose independence. Or maybe you’ve read the headlines about a top team that changed jerseys or an industry superstar who just launched his own firm.
Why did they choose to reach out and grab that next trapeze bar, while you continue to hold tight to the one you’re on? How did they get the courage to let go and make the leap?
These folks didn’t jump blindly from one bar to the next. They were empowered by knowledge.
The reality is that your view may be limited or insular. Those who made the leap had an expanded view of what their business life could be like beyond the status quo—they learned about the waterfall of possibilities in a vastly evolved industry landscape. And having that knowledge gave them the courage and strength to make an educated decision on whether to hang on or choose to let go and reach for the next bar.
It’s the greater understanding of what that swinging bar before you could represent which makes the leap far less frightening.
But keep in mind that the goal of education isn’t limited to inspiring you to reach for the next opportunity. Instead, it’s to give you greater agency over the decision of whether to hold on, doing so from a position of greater strength. Conversely, it gives you permission to acknowledge that clinging to what may not be serving you and your clients best – out of fear or overwhelm – may be preventing you from moving forward, indicating that it’s time for a change.
It’s about empowering yourself with knowledge—and only then can you give yourself permission to release your grip on the current bar to move on to the next one.