Being successful means sometimes doing things that are uncomfortable.

    In coaching advisors for more than 17 years, I've observed a key distinction between those who succeed at a high level and those who operate at a more mediocre level. Successful advisors are willing to do uncomfortable things. I'm talking about things that are uncomfortable for everyone. Successful people manage to do them, while those who aren't succeeding at a high level will do just about anything to avoid the feeling of discomfort. I can understand why advisors don't like to make cold calls; they're uncomfortable for just about everyone (and we don't recommend making them). But I've noticed that many advisors are reluctant to do something even as simple as asking for, obtaining and following up on referrals.
    Recently, I took a week off to go on a very long bike ride. While my friends and I were logging more than 100 miles a day and pushing ourselves up one hill after another, it occurred to me that very few people deliberately do things that make them uncomfortable. In fact, most people are so self-conditioned to avoid discomfort that they think people who seek discomfort are stupid, reckless or gluttons for punishment. I often get just this kind of feedback when I tell people about my "vacation."
    When confronted with something uncomfortable, most of us just won't rise to the challenge, even if it means failing to achieve our goals. However, when we're forced into an uncomfortable situation with absolutely no choice in the matter, we human beings have an incredible ability to rise to the occasion. People successfully move beyond being fired, going through divorce, dealing with life-threatening illnesses or surviving the death of a loved one. Often they tell us, "It was the best thing to ever happen to me. I'm stronger, better, and more equipped to live a more productive, successful and happy life." This is great news because it means we all have the capacity to handle discomfort. We simply have to choose to harness it to achieve our goals.
    So why do we avoid deliberately putting ourselves in "controlled" uncomfortable situations to make ourselves stronger, better and achieve higher levels of success and happiness? More important, how can we do this on purpose so we can be stronger, better, more successful and happier?
    At the 1940 convention of the National Association of Life Underwriters, a gentleman by the name of Albert Gray said, "The common denominator of success-the secret of success of every man who has ever been successful-lies in the fact that he formed the habit of doing things that failures don't like to do." Gray's words are often quoted within our industry, yet even more significant are the lines he spoke next: "The things that failures don't like to do are the very things that you and I and other human beings, including successful men, naturally don't like to do. In other words, we've got to realize right from the start that success is something which is achieved by the minority of men, and is therefore unnatural and not to be achieved by following our natural likes and dislikes nor by being guided by our natural preferences and prejudices." In other words, successful people push themselves beyond their natural discomfort to do whatever is necessary.
    When it comes to asking for referrals and following up, for example, I look at it as a necessity-you can't build your business without it. As far as I can tell, there's no comfortable method for filling your appointment calendar. But if you don't have any experience doing the things that are optional and uncomfortable, you'll probably tend to avoid them.
    What discomfort are you avoiding that needs to be faced in order for you to be the success you're really capable of being? Are you asking yourself "what if" questions that discourage you?
        What if I hire the staff I really need, but it doesn't work out? (Implication: I've wasted time, effort and money.)
        What if I confront a staff person who isn't getting the job done and they quit? (Implication: I'm stuck doing paperwork for a while and I'm forced to go out and find the right person for the job.)
        What if I ask for referrals and I offend a client? (Implication: The client fires me and tells everyone in the community what a bad person and advisor I am.)
        What if I follow up on a referral and they don't appreciate my call? (Implication: They call my client because they're angry. Then the client gets mad that their friend is mad so the client fires me and tells everyone in the community what a bad person and advisor I am.)
        What if I make that investment in my business and it doesn't turn out like I hoped? (Implication: I've wasted my time, effort and money.)
        What if I give a client bad advice? (Implication: The client fires me and tells everyone in the community what a bad person and advisor I am.)
    If questions like these are standing between you and your success, stop asking such lousy questions and try these four ideas instead:

1. Ask better questions.
    Maybe you're focusing on the wrong bad things. The consequences of not asking for referrals and following up are much greater than the worst-case scenario your imagination can conjure up.
    Instead of focusing on all the bad things that might happen if you do what needs to be done, ask yourself what will happen if you don't do it. Here's one answer: You'll end up being mediocre. Which is worse: being mediocre or dealing with the discomfort required to be successful?
    Mark Allen, the six-time Ironman Triathlon world champion, asks the question, "Are you willing to do the work that the goal requires?" If you're not succeeding at the level you really want, you might want to spend some time thinking about that question. If you want to be a successful financial advisor-someone who has the right number of ideal clients to generate enough gross business revenue to live the life you want-are you willing to do what it takes?

2. Give yourself empowering answers.
    As long as you're talking to yourself anyway, why not focus on the positive? What are some amazing, incredible, fantastic things that could happen? What might happen when you consistently and effectively ask for referrals and follow up? What might happen when you have the right staff doing the right things? What might happen when you make that investment in your most valuable asset-yourself?

3. Stop making excuses.
    It's amazing how often I hear advisors say, "That successful person was just in the right place at the right time." No, the truth is that nearly every successful person has worked hard and taken uncomfortable actions consistently and diligently over a long enough period of time to become successful today. Stop making excuses and choose to face the uncomfortable situations that will lead to your success. Instead of criticizing the people who have become successful, choose to do the work and join them.

4. Make it a habit to choose discomfort.
    The next time you find yourself avoiding something just because it's uncomfortable, do it anyway. This applies to both personal and business decisions. Have you been putting off a preventive or diagnostic medical procedure because you know it will be uncomfortable? Have you been avoiding a personal issue or uncomfortable conversation? Schedule that doctor's appointment, mammogram or colonoscopy. Visit that friend in the hospital. Talk to that family member about how you really feel. Make an appointment to draw up your will or trust. Join the gym and go work out, even if you don't look perfect in your shorts! Yes, these things may be uncomfortable, but do them anyway. Practice choosing discomfort. It will eventually come more naturally to you and the results will inspire you.
    Here's the bottom line. To become an even more successful financial advisor, you're going to have to do things that are uncomfortable. Remember the advice offered by Albert Gray and Mark Allen. Don't let discomfort be the deciding factor in determining what you do or avoid doing. If you're going to do anything significant in life, you must push past the discomfort. In doing so, you'll also set a great example for people around you and earn their trust and respect. 

© 2005 by Bill Bachrach, Bachrach & Associates, Inc.  All rights reserved Bill Bachrach is the author of four industry-specific books, including his newest book, It's All About Them; How Trusted Advisors Listen for Success. For more information, call (800) 347-3707 or visit the Web site,