I have been shooting firearms for years. It is one of those things a boy from the south does, at least in my family. My great-grandfather was a hunter, my grandfather was a hunter, my father as a hunter, I am a hunter, and now I am teaching my boys the lessons I have learned that have been passed down to me. Each year I embark on a handful of hunting trips: Deer, Quail, Turkey... you name it. In my circles and among my peers, I have always been considered a safe hunter and a decent shot. My hunting buddies still talk about a shot I made a few years ago on a deer from over 300 yards away... although now in hunting camp lore, the shot has grown to at least 450 yards. I don't protest.
I have always been confident in this topic, given my experience. In fact, last month I invited some of my friends up to the family farm to blow off some steam and go shoot during a weekday. Most of the guys that joined me were fairly novice, not having the family legacy I had with guns and hunting. Nonetheless, I took it upon myself to coach them up and share with them what I knew about shooting from my family and friends. After all, I was a 4th generation (or more) hunter. I have been around guns all my life. There were gun racks in my home growing up. For intensive purposes, I was an expert to my guests. We shot pistols, rifles, BB guns... you name it. We had fun, hit the targets most of the time and were feeling fairly good about ourselves. In our world, the day and our shooting was a success!
As a Financial Advisor, I have seen hundreds if not thousands of family balance sheets at this point in my career. Different psychologies are wrapped around all these balance sheets, each unique to the individuals and/or families I am sitting with. One question I typically ask a client is who they get their advice from... and very often the answer I get is friends, family, parents, etc. In a nutshell, they have had financial advice passed down to them like I had firearms and hunting advice passed down to me. And just like me, they believed they were "all set" and had confidence in their finances, if for nothing else, the endorsement given to them by their trusted family member or friend.
Something remarkable happened to me two weeks ago that challenged my paradigm. My girlfriend invited me to join some of her colleagues at the shooting range. It was an impromptu get together, and she knew I was a hunter and had experience with firearms. It sounded like a fun evening, plus I would get a chance to show my expertise. As a guy feeling fairly confident, I was looking forward to the opportunity to impress.
When we arrived and began to check in, it was apparent that my girlfriend’s boss knew a little something about Firearms. I took notice because her boss was not a hunter (from what I could tell), not military and only about 5’2. However, she handled the firearms with precision and a confidence that oozed experience.
Shortly after check-in, we made our move to the range itself. Eager to show my skills, I hopped in a lane, attached a target, loaded up my .40 GLOCK and began to fire some rounds down range. I hit the target of course and was feeling pretty good. Shortly after I finished, to my left my girlfriend’s boss began to shoot. No joke, what I witnessed was remarkable. Bullseye after bullseye after bullseye... rinse and repeat. My island exploded, along with my feeling like I was an expert. Come to find out, she was a shooting instructor for the NRA and was taught by a firearms instructor from her City's Police Department. This was her Jam. My girlfriend was impressed, (but not by me).
In a previous life, I may have let my ego get in the way and continued the only way I know how... falling back on the endorsement of my hunting buddies (still patting my back on the 350-yard shot on that deer years ago). Instead, I sucked up my pride, went up to my girlfriend's boss and asked if she could give me some instruction. She immediately complied and I think a little surprised I asked. She watched me squeeze off a few rounds and went to work... lean forward more, don’t look over the sight, suck in your gut like you were just punched and squeeze the trigger don't pull the trigger, is what she told me. She gave me advice I had never been given in all my years of handling firearms from friends or family. All I had to do was ask. What do you know...Bullseye!
On the way home that evening, I reflected on the lessons learned from my night and could not help but relate this story to my profession as a financial advisor. I often see clients, or potential clients, stall or not reach their financial potential for the same reasons I did not achieve mine on the range until 2018.
Here are a few of those lessons/observations:
• Often, we find comfort in the environments we grow up in - Family, Friends, Hunting buddies. Are they experts?
• A false sense of comfort can be a crutch to improvement.
• The term “expert” is relative. An expert in one circle is a novice in another.
• An Ego can get in the way of progress if you let it.
• Get outside of your comfort zone if you want to improve.
• Ask for Guidance from a source outside your typical place.
• A little coaching/advice can go a long way.
• The Range does not lie, nor does One's balance sheet.
My intent with this article is to point out an "Aha" moment I had with my own Human Behavior. The funny thing about money/finances (or firearms in my case as well) is we might grow up with it, or handle it often, which can subconsciously result in the feeling we are experts. But expertise is not developed by exposure alone. Money, in particular, can create a huge false sense of expertise because we handle it every day, our parents have handled it for decades and our families and friends for generations. However, that could only mean they have been making the same mistakes for 100 years and now passing those mistakes down to their kids.
As you reflect on your habits in any facet of your life, think hard about who you are getting your advice from. Seek out the right people, the true experts and broaden your perspective. A little advice and a new perspective can go a long way from the right expert and may even help you hit the bullseye, not just the target.