- We should study business in college -- not the arts;
- We should dress for success or somehow this "success," which is often defined by social conventions, will elude us;
- We should follow a career path that advances our monetary worth and social status -- not necessarily our self-worth and self-status;
- And we should work hard and sacrifice much of our mental, spiritual and physical health in the first two-thirds of our life so we may finally achieve the holy grail of personal finance, financial freedom, in the final one-third of our life.
"We get so much in the habit of wearing disguises before others that we finally appear disguised before ourselves." ~ Francois de la Rochefoucauld
To be honest with you, the inspiration for this post came primarily from recent discussions I've had with friends and business associates for the purpose of helping me with new marketing materials for my investment advisory firm.
Common advice given to me, specifically with regard to my personal image for use in a brochure, is that the photo should be one of me wearing a suit and tie, because this is an image that meets the "expectations" of society at large, especially those of prospective clients of my firm.
I have a few problems with this conventional financial adviser image: One problem is that I do not own a "suit and tie" -- I have a few ties and a sport coat but no ensemble that can be defined as such. The other problem I have is that I feel that this formal image is pretentious -- so much to the degree that I do not feel comfortable dressing this way -- almost as if it were a costume or disguise.
"You spent the first half of your life becoming somebody. Now you can work on becoming nobody, which is really somebody. For when you become nobody there is no tension, no pretense, no one trying to be anyone or anything. The natural state of the mind shines through unobstructed -- and the natural state of the mind is pure love." ~ Ram Dass
Perhaps it is a "mid-life" issue I am dealing with, but since I started my own business a few years ago, I have simply felt no desire to "be somebody," or to be anything but completely myself, in everything that I do.
Don't get me wrong, I do occasionally wear ties and I certainly believe in the general business rule that you do not under-dress your clients and you conduct yourself in an appropriate manner given the environment.
In other words, I won't show up to a corporate board meeting wearing flip-flops and a Hawaiian shirt while quoting Plato; however, I simply and firmly believe that I should be who I am -- the mode of being that makes me feel most comfortable, which ultimately translates into a more honest, sincere and effective delivery of service to my clients.
If society at large and prospective clients expect me to be someone or something different other than my self, then I will assume the supposed risk of refusing this expectation...
"I care not so much what I am to others as what I am to myself. I will be rich by myself and not by borrowing." ~ Michel de Montaigne
As you may have guessed, I will use the "casual" image (as seen here and in the margin of this page), rather than the formal image of me (which does not exist) in my 2009 marketing brochure!
I would rather have less material wealth as my self than more material wealth as someone else...
What do you think? Do you expect financial professionals to act and look a certain way? If so, how should that be? Bernie Madoff, at one time, certainly met the expectations of social conventions. Does (or should) that fact change our preconceived notions?