Our grandest NGT!s have formed our profession's foundation.

Discovering the next great thing has a cost: failure. The basic stumbling block is doing nothing, or doing nothing new.

-Scott Briscoe, Executive Update On Line

Ah, the thrill of "The Next Great Thing!" (NGT!) It makes the nostrils flair and the blood boil. It promises good times and great fun-not to mention a buck or two. But it has been a while-and it is getting a bit stuffy in here. Call me crazy, but when the wirehouses start talking about "Fee-only" and "Life Planning," it is definitely time for us to start rethinking.

Sorry, but we are all getting older and "Fee-only" and its "I'm on your side" variants are no longer new. Neither is "Life Planning." Or "Asset Allocation" or "Variable Life." Or "Monte Carlo." Or "Scenario Planning." In fact, it has definitely been dry times for NGT!s. Yet NGT!s have been constant companions. They consistently take authentic financial planners to new, primary sources of progress, product and/or profit.

Traditionally, NGT! signals a change in the way we do it out here on the bleeding edge. It would be "the Buzz;" the next breakthrough in our advance to becoming an authentic profession while enabling practitioner profitability.

NGT! can be light or shadow; yin or yang. It can be idealistic and visionary or practical and realistic. Or, hopefully, integral combinations. It can also be seductive and deluding. NGT! is always new and always challenging. It is the arguably good/great, but yet unproven. Necessarily containing the seeds of failure, it terrifies the timid and tantalizes the adventurous.

Delightfully, NGT! has been significant to our cultures since our humble beginnings. After 30-odd years, both the data and sufficient perspective enable us to look at our profession's history. We can see trends and repetition. We can inform the present with the past, gain insights to our future and assess the visions enabling our growth. Simultaneously, we can look at our temptations, our miscellaneous bumps and bruises, at opportunities missed, at ideals not met, at short paths leading nowhere, and wonder at the potentially magical implications of our work in the modern world. Taken in aggregate, both trait and trend are observable.

From our initial ideals and a whiff of an "NGT!," we evolved a wonderful profession devoted to enabling and improving the lives of millions, maybe, ultimately, billions. That said, our work has not been always grand, or even defensible. Worst case, we have self-served. Not far behind, we frequently divert, taking other industries' problems as our own, bearing primary risks of early adoption, serving as low-risk profit centers and low-cost, highly effective focus groups. Unfortunately, too often, "us" is confused with "them."

As much as we have benefited by our professional wanderlust, it is fair to argue that several NGT!s derailed us. Some of these came at the expense of our growth and our emergence as an authentic profession.

Some of this has been great-we continually pushed the borders of our implications. Some was not so great-we tend toward repeating essentially identical mistakes, particularly where the NGT! engages both high profitability and technical challenge.

Curiously, we began as a "Next Great Thing!" They sold financial products naked in those embryonic days. Alone. Without context. Intuiting both the stupidity and the opportunity, conscientious sales people spotted an NGT! in the making. In the process of getting to know their clients, they saw multiple needs-like insurance and investments for one client-and the seemingly obvious sense of combining the two. From nascent perception, they noticed insufficiency. There was more. There were wills undone, taxes gutting family net worth, isolated ancillary advisors, and increasingly incomprehensible employee benefits and terrifying inflation. Nobody was keeping track; nobody was integrating. Financial complexity and money demands were pummeling regular folks. Foresightful salesmen saw the need for something that worked with whole persons and their aggregated issues. This naturally became "comprehensive" financial "planning."

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