Be honest. Have you ever read a fortune cookie and stuck the fortune in your wallet (usually never to be referred to again)? I have. Several times. Sometimes I read one that gives me pause. But it usually never involves money.

I wondered about this and thought: What if I owned a restaurant that served wealth management fortune cookies? What would some of them say? This is what I came up with.

Wealth management is resource management, and resources go far beyond wealth.
We all know that when we are doing our best work with our clients (not for), we are helping them see what is possible and working to make their actions and values become more closely aligned. We may use money as a catalyst to talk about what is possible and what matters, but money is only a piece of someone’s physical, social and spiritual resources.

A client couple once spoke to us about switching their residency out of Minnesota. They have a home in Arizona, where the income and estate tax state are less burdensome. Our models showed how much they could save by replacing their two Minnesota homes with one and then turning the Arizona property into their primary residence.

But after we came up with that solution, our conversation turned to what the clients wanted their lives to look like, where they wanted to grow old, what type of community mattered, and even what kind of clothes they are most comfortable wearing (the last is a great litmus test for the kind of place you want to live). Turns out the tax numbers mattered less to these clients than a dozen other things.

In Michael A. Singer’s book The Untethered Soul, he writes, “When a problem is disturbing you, don’t ask, ‘What should I do about it?’ Ask, ‘What part of me is being disturbed by this?’”

It feels good to come to a quick solution. But sometimes when we seize upon one too quickly, we miss other things that might have changed our recommendations. With the couple who wanted to move, we ended up having a far richer conversation with them than we would have had if we had simply solved the tax problem. We ended up uncovering things that were ultimately more important to them and they rejected the residency switch.

A partnership works better if you can see what you are doing wrong too, not just what your partner is doing wrong.
I’ve been in a 36-year business partnership with Wil Heupel. As we struggled to build our business early on, I was generally the big picture guy and Wil somehow translated my ideas into actions. I worked externally, Wil internally.

I was especially adept at noticing what was wrong with him. I initially thought that I was more important to the business because I was responsible for bringing in clients. But I wasn’t doing a great job of that, and ironically I resented Wil for not doing what I was supposed to be doing. I found myself becoming self-righteous. It took me going to therapy in my late 20s to finally accept the fact that I dealt with my own insecurities by deflecting them onto others.

Once I was able to accept my flawed self, our partnership prospered. (I suspect Wil may have had reservations about me early on, too.) While our relationship hasn’t been without its challenges, we recognized we needed each other and still believe and trust in each other. Without Wil managing the business and hugging our clients, we never would have grown to a staff of 60 and over $3 billion in assets. Ego is the enemy!

Good and bad things happen every day. Don’t focus on either one.
One of the things that I focus on in my daily meditation practice is equanimity. While I am a very expressive person, in business I don’t get too excited when things are going well or too down when they aren’t. And every day I encounter the good and the bad. I believe my sense that we can handle whatever happens has helped us get through some very challenging years. That includes the time a partner left to compete with us and a time very early in our careers when we lost two of our largest clients at a moment we were barely keeping our heads above water. That’s not to mention several market upheavals.

But my composure has also kept my head from getting too big when things are going well. If I rely on the positive feedback of others to establish my standing, then I am not on firm footing. Legacy can be a silly thing to pursue. It’s often built on how others view you, and from where and who they are, more than on who you are. Of course I feel good when someone says something nice about me, but I’m unlikely to let it have an enduring impact on me. If you try to do the right thing, in the right way, at the right time, then you can be comfortable with your process, regardless of the results.

Help enough people get what they want and you’ll get what you want.
Early on in my career, I heard motivational speaker Zig Ziglar say that. This message in different forms rings through all the great spiritual traditions. Another concept I meditate on is sympathetic joy—or being happy for the happiness of others. I admit that for many years I used to get annoyed when I saw someone get attention that I felt I deserved. That’s a loser’s game. I started channeling that negative energy into being happy when others were experiencing good fortune.

Guess what! Good fortune is not a zero-sum game, and there is more than enough to go around. I don’t know if it is maturity or some sense of karma, but whenever I do something for others, I immediately feel good. When I was on the national board for the International Association for Financial Planning (along with the Institute of Certified Financial Planners, a precursor to the FPA) in my late 20s, I attended my first meeting. I must not have got the memo that new board members were to be seen but not heard. I spoke more than I should have, and the board chair, a tough, North Carolinian named Larry Carroll, gave me a couple of stares that immediately melted the ice in my Coke.

But when I returned to Minneapolis, I received a handwritten note from him that said, “You will someday lead this organization.” He was right, and I owe him a debt of gratitude. Even more important, he taught me the importance of handwritten notes and the impact they can have. I kept that note taped to my office computer from the time I received it until my final speech as chair as a reminder of what was possible if I believed in myself the way he did. I don’t think this conflicts with my previous thought about how you let yourself be perceived by others, but it shows that others may be able to see you more clearly than you see yourself.

I could fill dozens of fortune cookies with various thoughts like this, but it was hard enough to build a practice. Starting a restaurant is out of the question.

Ross Levin is co-founder of Accredited Investors Wealth Management in Edina, Minn.