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Warren Buffett’s fans know that he views Benjamin Graham’s “The Intelligent Investor” as the book that changed his life by introducing him to security analysis. Indeed, some financial advisers cite this 1949 classic as an invaluable resource.
Yet the books that most influence financial planners often revolve around non-monetary subjects including gratitude, goal attainment, and critical thinking. It’s these broader themes that tend to captivate advisers.
For example, Alexandra Wilson, a certified financial planner in Lawrenceville, Ga. recently read “Measure What Matters” by John Doerr, the Silicon Valley-based investor and venture capitalist. “The book opened my eyes to the power of OKRs [Objectives and Key Results],” she said. “I use them to keep me on track, focused and motivated.”
Wilson says that she uses Doerr’s goal-setting system in both her personal and professional life. In her office, she lists business goals on poster board so her staff can monitor their progress. They can visualize how they’re doing because each color-coded goal appears as a stoplight (red, yellow, green) graphic.
“It’s a great book for advisers early in their career, especially in launching and building their firm,” Wilson said.
For some advisers, a book comes along that literally changes how they see the world. For years, Mike Hennessy enjoyed being near the ocean. When he read “Blue Mind” by Wallace J. Nichols, he not only understood why but also decided to launch his own advisory firm to attract like-minded clients.
“Dr. Nichols explains the science behind being near water can make you happier,” said Hennessy, a certified financial planner in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “It’s a formative book for me.”
His new clients receive a copy of “Blue Mind” along with their welcome packet. Many of them are boaters and small business owners in south Florida. “I want them to understand what I’ve learned, to feel the same freedom with their finances as they feel on the water,” he said. “And there’s the gratitude that comes with that.”
Another book that Hennessy calls “transformative” is “The Obstacle Is the Way” by Ryan Holiday. Hennessy says it has helped him respond rather than react to events that swirl around him. “Before reading the book, I was floating along and decisions were not in my control,” he said. “It allowed me to realize that while events may happen beyond your control, how you respond to events is entirely within your control.”
If a technical snafu marred his workday, for instance, Hennessy might previously have reacted by thinking, “Why me? Why can’t I catch a break?” Now, he responds by telling himself, “This is a cost of running a business. Let’s formulate a plan to handle it.” Adopting a calm, controlled mindset helps advisers address difficult challenges. So does seeking wide-ranging insight from others.
Bruce Colin, a certified financial planner in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., raves about “Range” by David Epstein. Reading the book earlier this year has reinforced his efforts to seek out diverse opinions before reaching a conclusion.
“The book has made me more receptive to entertaining different ideas,” Colin said. “It reminds me that experts aren’t always right. Epstein writes that expertise can actually narrow one’s ability to tackle a problem, and that the more you listen to a variety of people, the higher your odds of getting it right.”