BY Brian Hufford, CPA, CFP
Recently, I participated in a presentation by Stanford University professor Dr. Jennifer Aaker about the Power of Story in marketing, particularly in imagining a better future for ourselves.
Dr. Aaker shared the results of studies performed to establish the impact of stories in marketing. She related a test in which 50 items were purchased at thrift stores for an average cost of $1.25. Each item was then listed for sale on eBay, accompanied by a brief story about the item for sale. When accompanied by a compelling story, items that had cost only $1.25 were sold for a substantial markup at an average price of $8. Humans relate to stories much better than facts.
The stories of our lives are an intricate tapestry of trying, succeeding, and failing. Dr. Aaker asked us to write the story of our lives thus far in six words, using only the words, "Try," "Succeed," and "Fail." My six-word story was "Try, Succeed, Fail, Try, Try, Try." In my career, I had initial rapid success and growth when starting my business. Then I had a dreadful sinkhole experience that caused me to move my family to a different community and a new business.
I am fortunate to have achieved the success I have today, but my midlife failure had to be experienced to bring forth the seeds for a new and better start. I also noticed from my six-word story that I have a tendency to be driven with the "Try, Try, Try" of the second half of my life.
What is your six-word story of trying, succeeding, and failing?
Ironically stories of failure in our lives tend to make us more human and more approachable by others. Each of us has failures, regardless of how much effort we invest in succeeding.
The six-word story discipline can be used to describe our current mental status or to imagine a compelling future for ourselves. Many dentists are preparing for an approaching transition or retirement phase of life. I cannot imagine retirement as permanent vacation from work. I need to stay connected to what I love doing.
Unfortunately, dentistry is a physical profession, and many dentists may not be able to practice chairside for as long as they had hoped. For sure, retirement is not only a story about money and leisure.
Can you imagine a six-word story: "My past; bigger than my future"?
Without a compelling narrative that contains an intersection between what one loves doing and what the world needs, life can become small. How does one imagine a transition stage of life that contains the six-word story: "My future; bigger than my past"?
Recently, I was privileged to interact with the Great Lakes Study Club in Chicago. This group of dentists is passionately committed to excellence in clinical dentistry. A big part of these participants' careers has been associated with clinical continuing education and mentoring younger dentists.
The topic I was asked to speak about for the weekend was related to dental practice transitions. I could see in the participants' faces how deflating it was to imagine having to retire and leave a profession they love. While money is an important topic with retirement soon approaching, loving life is more important.
I asked the dentists to each write a six-word retirement story about their vision of a compelling retirement narrative. These are some of the responses I received:
"Work less. Play More. Enjoy Life." "Travel more. New Experiences. New Cultures." "Live absolutely large. Leave a trace." "Work some. Play some. Love lots." "Continue to purposefully connect by choice." "Lower stress and live life smiling." "Step off gas? Will I crash?" "Retirement is the beginning of life." "Get out easy. Live life easy." "Happy. Busy. Secure. Healthy. Laughing lots."
There is a story for your retirement stage of life that contains your personal version of "My future; bigger than my past." Most of us have a vision of this phase as nothing more than believing that when work is no longer possible, then retirement starts. Some are financially prepared and some are not. With some deep planning, and with no small amount of intention, you can embark on a much bigger future.
Brian Hufford, CPA, CFP, is CEO of Hufford Financial Advisors, LLC, an independent, fee-only planning firm that helps dentists achieve financial peace of mind. Contact Hufford at (888) 470-3064 or [email protected].