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Voices

Why walking away from a job improved this advisor's life

I have taken some wrong turns in my life and career due to an intense, and sometimes impulsive drive to succeed and gain acceptance. Growing up in Alabama, my family was very poor, we lived on food stamps and faced other hardships. As a result I blocked out some of my childhood as a survival tool.

I learned early on that, if I performed well, people would accept me. Sports came naturally and I pushed myself academically. When I started excelling at both I would feel like I was good enough. I set out to get as much of that as I could.

I decided to become a financial advisor after an encounter I had at the bank where I took my first job following business school. A man started crying because I turned him down for a loan that he needed to bury his late wife. In that moment — at age 23 — I knew I wanted to help people plan for their financial future.

I saw some success early on in my career, but my performance issues never went away. They kept fueling my desire to be better. I would accomplish something that seemed significant at first, but that satisfaction would eventually fade away and I would feel less than again. As a result, I developed a need to push myself to levels others can’t.

However, these anxieties were subdued by the feeling I got from adding value to people’s lives. Watching someone go from anxious to relieved after we’ve created a secure financial plan is a total release.

But, this still wasn’t enough for me. My drive to chase greater challenges led me to make a monumental decision in my career that created a paradigm shift in my life.

I jumped on an opportunity to move solely into management. I’ve had a few production management roles in my career, but I’ve always had a connection with clients. But as I’m never satisfied, I took the new position despite consultations with mentors and friends, all of whom told me that my gift is my ability to care for people.

I left a low stress advisory practice in Alabama where I was one of the top three advisors at the firm. I uprooted my wife — she was about eight years away from being vested in her state pension — took a 60% pay cut for more responsibility and headed to Arizona.

My new task was to change the culture of a district that had not performed well for a number of years. The position was much more operational and compliance driven than I expected. I struggled almost immediately. I would go home at night and question if I added value to anyone’s life that day. The answer was usually no.

I lost that ability when I couldn’t sit down with real people, with real needs and help them get on the right path financially.

I kept thinking my feelings toward the position would change, but my self-worth wasn’t improving. The job began to impact my health and I spent too much energy giving this role a chance. I walked away after nine months.

It’s a very scary and uncomfortable place to be in midcareer. I eventually found an opportunity in Arizona with the Boston-based boutique wealth management firm Moors & Cabot.

Now I have a position that allows me to add value to the organization, other advisors, and my clients every day. I feel blessed and grateful for the ways things have worked out because of the valuable lessons this experience provided.

I’ve found that some of the unfortunate challenges I’ve inflicted on myself aren’t my identity. By picking myself up, I have an opportunity to be an even better, more empathetic advisor, leader, mentor, and overall person.

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