A Lesson in Humility: What I Learned from Dan Rather

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I recently had the opportunity to introduce Dan Rather, who was a keynote speaker at Commonwealth Financial Network’s 2016 National Conference. I felt honored to do so, and he gave a wonderful presentation. But even more than his speech, it was the brief interaction I had with Mr. Rather that left a lasting impression on me, and it’s one I think worth sharing.

As many of you are likely aware, Dan Rather has had a distinguished career in broadcast journalism that spans nearly six decades. He is well known for his 24 years anchoring the CBS Nightly News and covering countless stories as a 60 Minutes correspondent. While there’s no doubt that Mr. Rather has experienced difficult times in his career, you don’t get inducted into the Television Hall of Fame or receive an Edward R. Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award without being someone who has consistently made outstanding contributions in the field.

When I was getting ready to meet Mr. Rather in the green room at the conference, I wasn’t sure what to expect of a person of such accomplishment. But I can tell you, he seemed more interested in me than I was in him! He listened intently to every word I said and was curious to know me better. While we all tend to make assumptions about famous people, Mr. Rather struck me as an authentic, good, down-to-earth man. At 85, it would seem the vicissitudes of his life and career have simply made him a better man.

So, what does this have to do with you? As financial advisers, many (if not all) of us have had moments when our egos get away from us. But we’ve also all experienced a good failure every now and then. I would argue that these failures are actually opportunities to help keep our egos in check and provide a valuable lesson in humility.

Although my time with Mr. Rather was short, there’s no doubt he gave me the gift of this life lesson. I’ve since taken the time to pause and reflect that it’s not just about me. Honestly, does anyone really care how many blog posts I’ve written, presentations I’ve given or articles I’ve published? Perhaps we tend to focus on quantitative measures like these because the qualitative ones are just too scary. Still, those qualitative questions are the ones we should be asking. Did my efforts actually help people? Were problems solved, guidelines used or insights embraced?

I know that ours is certainly not a profession of small egos! But as we enjoy our successes, we should also remember our failures. Of course, we need to pick ourselves up and get back in the game after a particularly tough time or a solid failure. Just as important, however, is keeping our egos in check when everything is coming up roses and failure seems a distant memory. After all, this profession is less about our personal success and more about the people we’ve helped and the gifts we have had the opportunity to use.

As I strive to keep in touch with what’s really important, “check your ego at the door” and “get over yourself” are two good catchphrases that will be with me. How about you?

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for webJoni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management
Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.

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