How The Show Northern Exposure Changed My Life

Success and happiness comes from figuring out what you want and who you are.

I was intrigued by the following Tweet;

Many times I've talked about my path of getting to the life I wanted and then figuring out how to make a living in that life. Where we are all the product of our experiences, my beliefs were heavily influenced by having been sick for a year in high school which led me to place a heavy emphasis on quality of life and happiness earlier than I think most people get there. The TV show Northern Exposure came on shortly after I graduated college and gave permission to want to live in a small town/community which is of course an atypical path for the financial industry. After having spent my 20's, into my early 30's working on various trading desks at Charles Schwab I knew that I wanted to live where I do now and manage money in the capital markets. It took a couple of more steps to get there (no shortcuts) but by the time I was 37 I was where I wanted to be.

To the Tweet, this gave me time for numbers 3 and 4. Time to be able to start very actively being involved with the local volunteer fire department (I have been a firefighter since 2003 and the chief since early 2012) and time to not neglect taking care of myself (working out regularly). Along the way I have developed other interests including photography. I've also had the time to learn about new things that interest me (while I have always worked out, I have recently started learning a lot more about nutrition) and have also figured a path to monetize my firefighting hobby should I ever need to do that.

The specifics of what I've done are not relevant to too many people but I think there is something to the path of taking the time to figure out what you really want (professionally and personally), the sooner the better, then figuring out how to get there and finally making it happen, realizing there won't be short cuts.

A few weeks ago Barry Ritholtz wrote a blog post titled Our Exorbitant Privilege which was like an extended mission statement for his firm. Barry is one of the few bloggers to start blogging before me, he's always been a friend in the space and he has of course built a powerhouse firm. In his post he talks about how they don't really spend time on sales they instead spend time on clients and (paraphrasing) studying which includes the various social media and regular media work many of them do. Having done all these things myself albeit on a much smaller scale, I can tell you that doing extra things (in my case blogging primarily but I used to be on TV a lot) leads to having conversations with people that you'd never otherwise meet. When I did the extra work with my past affiliation with AdvisorShares I interviewed quite a few VERY interesting people including Dr. Richard Thaler (Nobel Prize), John Burbank and Ken Fisher (although I knew Ken from a few years back). I also got to have regular conversations with Mark Yusko. Those kinds of interactions can only help but they are much harder to come by when you don't do the kinds of extra things that Barry talks about but are instead spending most of your time selling (many advisors spend most of their time selling). The way I think of it, if you spend 3/4 of your time, or more, selling then that is time you're not minding the store.

Josh Brown had a related post on Friday where the big takeaway was to question why a prospective client would ever trust an advisor who was not on Twitter. Josh conceded the industry is not there yet but the point was accountability. He said a lot of people work in the business but are just carnival barkers (my term not his) with nothing to say and by extension not much value to add for clients.

One way I have described my blogging is as a look over my shoulder for anyone interested in looking. I've always been transparent with the trades I make for clients and more importantly the process I go through for taking defensive action when appropriate (obviously there are many other topics I write about). There is no way I could accommodate every reader as a client so I don't need to spend time being the guy who people wonder "now what is he selling." This ties in with what Barry says about not spending time selling. I have a small practice but it meets my criteria for wealthy; it allows me to pay the bills, set some aside for the future with a little left over to have some fun. I have no idea whether I could draw many more clients if I spent a lot of time trying to sell but it isn't what I want to do with my time. This circles back to the James Clear Tweet, I love what I do but I will not allow it to take away numbers 3 and 4. I would argue that making time for 3 and 4 make me a much better advisor. It appears Barry and his colleagues have figured this out, at least I hope they have.

My exorbitant privilege is to serve both my clients with my day job and my community as the fire chief. I don't love one over the other, they are both a part of who I am. My hope for anyone reading this is that they figure out who they are and what they want.

Speaking of Northern Exposure, the picture with this post is from our visit to Roslyn, WA which is where some of the show was filmed.

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