October 17, 2007

We See As We Are

We do not see things as they are, but as we are ourselves.
-- Henry M Tomlinson (1873-1958)

We don't see things as they are. We see them as we are.
-- Anais Nin (1903-1977)

We see things as we are, not as they are.
-- Leo Rosten (1908-1997)

We see things not as they are, but as we are.
-- Stephen Covey
In recent weeks, I was pondering Stephen Covey's words only to find today that he may not be the originator. That isn't my point, but maybe it is. I want to believe he's the source because that's what I thought for years. I actually prefer Leo Rosten's version. Or my reworking ;)

Here's a longer quote from Covey: "Each of us tends to think we see things as they are, that we are objective. But this is not the case. We see the world, not as it is, but as we are—or as we are conditioned to see it."

Do you believe that? I do more deeply than ever. Here's why. I spend most of my time helping advisors and clients. I focus on communicating simply and honestly. Even when ideas are compelling, biases get in the way.

You can show clients how tax advantages make life insurance an excellent way --- even the best way --- to invest or pay estate taxes. You'll still get objections like
  • "I don't believe in insurance", as if we're talking about Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny
  • "I buy term and invest the difference", forgetting that most term life insurance expires before death is likely and that investing outside exposes growth to tax
  • "I had a bad experience with an advisor years ago and won't trust another one."
Statements like these give deep insights about the speaker. The objections can sometimes be overcome over time. Sometimes the beliefs stick and the clients lose.

Or do they? Our biases get in the way too. We may not even notice.
  • does the client have the right amount of insurance?
  • does the client have the right type of insurance?
  • is the client open to a leveraging strategy?
We can inadvertently make the wrong recommendations or even suppress strategies because we know how the client thinks.

Indeed, we don't want to overwhelm clients with too many choices ("buyer beware"). But we can also filter so aggressively that few ideas get through to us and then to our clients ("buyer unaware"). Just because we see as we are.

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