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The Value of an Advisor

And finally the day had come.  September 4th was my official debut as a California Golden Bear.

In the year prior, I was a freshman phenom-to-be. I was motivated, focused and willing to do almost anything to find myself on the field in an already crowded backfield of future NFL superstars. The likelihood of this happening was slim, but through the first half of my first fall camp, I was defeating the odds. This was until I was injured with … you guessed it, turf toe. The injury ended my season, and it would take another full year before I would gallop onto the field to show that I was worthy of playing time. 

On this day, I ran out of the Memorial Stadium tunnel that was lined with the infamous California Marching Band, cheerleaders, and over eighty thousand amped fans in the crowd. As I ran through the mist, all the way down to the opposing teams end zone, I thought about all of the strife I went through to get to this point: the pain of surgery, getting left on campus when the team traveled, hours of film study, and the emotions of not being good enough. Yet, on this day, that all would change. I took a knee, said a prayer, looked deep into the stadiums stands and knew that it was game time. 

Soon after the game started, it was clear that our opposition was no match for us. We scored and scored again. Stopped them, and stopped them again. It was a rout. In college football, this meant that the younger players would get a chance to show their skills. 

“Yarnway! Get ready!” said my  running backs coach. He looked me into my eyes, and without words I knew what was expected of me. All camp, he told me to keep the ball high and tight, use my feet to find the hole, and run with patience. Now was the time to show it. 

I ran onto the field like a created player from a video game: poised, focused and dangerous just as my coach had taught us to be. And as I expected, the first play was a hand off to me. My first carry over the right guard broke for nine yards. 

My heart was fluttering at 100 miles per hour. In the huddle, they called for me to get the ball again. Same play, to the left. Another nine yard gain. Two plays later, another gain for four yards and a first down. At this point, I was in the zone and wanted to recreate the feeling and outcomes of the three previous times that I carried the ball. 

We scored a field goal on that drive, then our defense took the field. The defense stuffed the opposing teams offense and yet again I heard my name called. This time, I was not nervous. In fact, I may have been overconfident. When my number was called to get the ball again, I ran over the right side of the offensive line and fumbled the ball. Immediately, I was yanked out of the game and did not see the field again in that victory. 

There are a few things that I learned from this circumstance that taught me about the value of a coach that can be transferred onto any field or business: 

  • An Advisor Might See Something That You Do Not See: It’s unnatural for humans to look at themselves objectively. Most times, we want to be right or think that we know best. A trusted advisor can provide a clear set of eyes for your style of play or in this case, your financial plan. My coach’s reminder before I got in the game to keep the ball “high and tight” was him highlighting the possibility of a future fumble based on his observations in training camp. Every good advisor will be able to bring attention to the bad habits that could get in the way of your success. 
  • They’ll Emphasize the Fundamentals: Advisors know that fundamentals make the difference between success and failure. On the football field, these are doing things such as tackling properly and playing full throttle until you hear a whistle. With investing, fundamentals can be as simple as not selling at the bottom of a market or properly diversifying your portfolio. By emphasizing the fundamentals, an advisor can equip you with the mindset that leads to the actions that will ultimately assist you in seizing fleeting moments of opportunity. Sound fundamentals are the competitive advantage. 
  • They’ll Refine Your Natural Talent: You may be a good investor. A good running back. A good spouse. Yet, an advisor can make you great. In addition to seeing the things that you may not see, they can help you accentuate your natural ability. If you are already a great planner, an advisor could help make your financial plan better. If you are a good stock picker, perhaps an advisor can give you a second opinion or a new way of looking at your holdings. As my coach used to say, “good is the enemy of great.”
  • They’ll Keep You Accountable: It’s one thing to make the plan, but it’s another thing to stick to it. An advisor will make sure that you are following the path that you both set together. He will make sure that you take your emotions out of the decisions you make, while working with you to make appropriate amendments to the plan. The best plan is the one that you can stick to. 
  • Preparation Is Their Mission: An advisor's job is to make sure that you are prepared for whatever your stated objective is. On the gridiron, the objective is to win football games while performing at a high level. Within your financial plan, that objective may be to retire early, to pay your child's college tuition fees or to start a business. It is a reasonable expectation to employ an advisor to prepare you for what awaits you in your future. Similarly, an advisor's success can be measured on how prepared you are for your designated objective. 

A good advisor is invaluable to your success. Even more important is a patient client that allows their hard work to manifest over its stated time horizon.