Our firm Accredited Investors participates in advisor study groups, and one invited Dorothy Leonard, author of Critical Knowledge Transfer to come speak. The subject was the younger advisors at our firms, and what they most need for us as founders to pass on to them.

I returned to my office after this talk and sat down with my fellow co-workers to discuss it. I figured the most important thing they would want from me as a founder was wisdom about how I handle clients.

Nope. Much to my chagrin, they basically told me all my skills are pretty easy to replace (or at least, that’s my interpretation). But what they did need from me came as a bit of a surprise: my equanimity.

It’s my calmness in tense situations they appreciate most. They told me how my choices often work out well for the firm when things are emotionally charged. They noted that during market turmoil, I seem to be able to step back and empathize with clients while taking the long view—even though volatility impacts not only portfolios, but our revenues too.

I thought it might be interesting to share with you how I may have come by this quality, which quite frankly did not come naturally. There are steps I have taken and many books I have read on this subject that have given me perspective about what is most important. I want to stress that I am far from Buddha-like, but neither am I as anxious a character as I was over 30 years ago.

First, I have a daily practice. I wake up at 5:15 a.m. and start my day with 20 minutes of meditation. I have been doing this for a while. I started at three minutes and added a minute a month until I reached 20 minutes. Generally, my meditation focuses on these thoughts: loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy for others and equanimity. After my sitting, I grab my coffee and open up a spiritual book. Then I write down my thoughts for around five minutes. After that, I take my dog for a walk. When I am done with this, I check my e-mail and read the paper.

In other words, I inoculate myself against anything coming at me via messages or the news. Contrast that with waking up and grabbing your iPhone and scrolling through your in-box or reading the headlines about the latest great disaster.

While this ritual is helpful, I supplement it with a number of thought-provoking books I either read or listen to in my car. I want to share just a few of them with you. I believe almost every book has something in it that’s new or helpful to me, even if I don’t always agree with the authors.

From Jungian psychologist James Hollis’s book What Matters Most: “The meaning of our life will be found precisely in our capacity to achieve as much of it as is possible beyond those bounds fear would set for us.” The mantra is that life should not be “governed by fear,” Hollis says.

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