“THE WORLD IS IMPERMANENT, AND IT’S FALLING APART ALL THE TIME, AND THAT SUCKS.”
That’s what Jerry Colonna told me when I asked him what to do with all the fear and uncertainty during the market collapse and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Not very uplifting. At least, not at first glance..
But the truth is, this conversation with Jerry was not about convenient lies and magic pills. It’s about deep truth and deep wisdom. The world is the way it is. Now, what are we going to do with it?
Jerry’s profound insights are equally at home in the business world, the work of financial advisors, and everyday humans trying to make sense out of an unsettling and sometimes terrifying world.
As Jerry tells me, “All things are changing all the time. And so, the best you can do is to internalize the fact that the plans you create—whether it’s for the homeschool plan tomorrow or for your retirement plan—are a best guess. And then you have to relax your grip around that, and realize that you’re always shifting.”
You can find all of that, and much much more, in the video below.
But before you dig in, consider making a quick detour and learn about Jerry’s inspiring coaching company, Reboot, which believes that “Work doesn’t have to destroy us. Work can be the way we achieve our fullest selves.” While you’re there, be sure to take a look at his incredible new book.
And don’t forget to check out the show notes below. You’ll see I’ve cross-referenced some of the highlights of our conversation with corresponding declarations from a project of mine at The Society of Advice. That’s because (surprise, surprise) a lot of Jerry’s insights tie directly back to things we talk about in The Society.
Without further ado… ladies and gentlemen, Jerry Colonna!
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0:00 – 6:15 Introductions, Carl sets the stage for why so many of us are scared right now, and Jerry reminds us that the first step is… simply… to slow down.
6:30 – 14:00 Carl asks Jerry the million-dollar question: What do we do right now? And Jerry gives a million-dollar answer.
“All around us, the wind, the fire, the earth, the water are always taking on different qualities. We also change like the weather. We ebb and flow like the tides (or the markets). We wax and wane like the moon (or the markets). We fail to see that, like the weather, we are fluid, not solid, and so we suffer… If we learn to sit still like a mountain in a hurricane… Then we are not this separate being who has to have things turn out our way. When we stop resisting and let the weather simply flow through us, we can live our lives completely. That’s from Pema Chödrön, and it’s from her book, Comfortable with Uncertainty… When I first read that, I was like, that’s perfect business advice.”
14:30 – 18:45 Carl and Jerry discuss the tension between making plans and then putting the plan away and being present.
19:00 – 25:00 People in the business of giving advice are scared to say, “I don’t know” because, isn’t knowing precisely what they’re paid to do? Many clients certainly seem to think so. But, as it turns out, that might not actually be the job.
“I’m going to say something that I say to coaches all the time. I say this to CEOs. I say this to parents. When we hold fast to the notion that our job is to give the path that is sure and true and advice that is unchangeable, we are actually not taking care of our clients. We’re not taking care of our children. We’re not taking care of our spouses or significant others. We are trying to assuage our own fears, our own insecurities, our own uncertainties. And that doesn’t help the situation…“
“We think that we’re supposed to tell our children what’s going to happen with the coronavirus pandemic, and so we make it up. But they’re smart, and they see through us. And what we inadvertently send to them is a message that says, “Do not trust what I say…” If we expand that to our employees, to our significant others, to our clients, what we’re destroying is the number one resource we need in times like this: trust in each other. All because we don’t know what to do with our own fear of not being enough, our own fear of not having answers… So step one is getting yourself under control… We’ve got enough virus-passing in the world. Our job is not to pass along the virus of our anxiety.”
25:00 – 30:30 The last thing people want when things are scary is to be inundated with facts and figures. That just doesn’t help. So what does help?
33:00 – 38:00 Jerry breaks down the difference between being honest and projecting anxiety, and segues into wisdom traditions and self-care.
“For so many people, our relationship to money is a relationship to safety. And so, when we are fixated on a financial plan, we’re probably more likely than not fixated on trying to feel safe. And so I have to move into practices that are going to make me feel safe so that I can think clearly and do my financial planning. Not from a place of panic, but from a place of opportunity because life just shifted. And that means that there’s something that I can do.”
39:00 – 47:00 Jerry gives us a few practical, tactical tips for how to deal with the anxiety of the moment we find ourselves currently in. Carl piggybacks on that idea with a deeply personal anecdote. And then Jerry comes back with a personal story of his own.
50:00 – 59:00 Although Jerry’s book, Reboot: Leadership and the Art of Growing Up, isn’t really about money, money does come up again and again in the narrative. Jerry gives us some insight into why money is not a lasting form of safety and what it actually is.
“The wish for safety drives so many of our behaviors. And in modern society, the best manifestation of safety is the myth we tell ourselves that money’s going to buy us not just happiness but make us safe. It’s like we think of it as the wall outside our gated community. We’re inside, untouchable. And it’s times like this where we realize, whoa, maybe we are touchable… right? And so we have to go back and re-examine that wish for safety and remember other forms of safety. So that, again, we can look with discernment about our choices.“
“We’re still a tribe—a prehistoric character sitting around a fire, trying to make sense of the world. We see a shooting star. What does that mean? We create a myth; we hear a lion roaring in the forest. What does that mean? We tell each other stories. It’s times like this where we get to be human together. And that… that’s a gift. The antidote, the true source of safety, is belonging.”
So, that’s a wrap. Jerry and I ended our conversation on that incredible note: “The true source of safety is belonging.” Amazing. What a pleasure to talk with the incomparable Jerry Colonna.
For all of you out there reading this who are financial advisors—especially those of you working your best to salvage the reputation of our much-beleaguered industry—I want to invite you, just one more time, to join us at The Society of Advice. Because that’s what it’s all about.
It’s about revisiting what got us into this profession in the first place. Revisiting the deep value we provide to our clients. And remembering that we are not alone.
YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ADVISOR OUT THERE WHO IS PUTTING YOUR CLIENTS FIRST. WE ARE MANY. AND THAT’S WHY I MADE THE SOCIETY OF ADVICE.
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