For those in the financial planning space, Carl Richards needs no introduction. As a former financial planner, Carl found tons of inspiration for his Sketch Guy column, which has been appearing weekly in The New York Times since 2010. Carl is a frequent keynote speaker, author, podcast host, and advocate of “real financial planning.” 

In our latest episode of YAFPNW, Carl and Hannah talk about what the “real work” in the profession looks like, the beauty of simplicity, and why we need to focus on understanding problems rather than offering solutions.

The secret little society of real financial planners

Carl described himself as the Lorax for both financial planners and clients. As a former financial planner, he’s able to funnel feedback he gets from readers of his book or column to financial planners. He’s also able to clear up misconceptions or complicated ideas about financial planning, most obviously through his Sketch Guy series in The New York Times. 

Unfortunately, one of the biggest misconceptions people have about financial planners is what they do. “It’s so hard to explain what a real planner does because people have always had this experience with the opposite,” said Carl. “When they sit down and meet with a real pro, it’s so much different.”   

We can blame the “fake people” in the profession who tend to overshadow the financial planners who are doing the real work: the actual financial part, plus the soft skills part. Giving advice. Being empathetic. Building trust. Really listening, and asking the right questions. This is the “real work” that is often so hard to market properly. However, Carl says to forget the marketing and sales stuff. What we need to focus on is listening and making things simpler for our clients.

Let’s get better at diagnosing the problem

“Nobody cares about your solutions,” Carl said. “They care about their problems.” 

So what can financial planners do to work with that mindset? We have to become really good at listening. Diagnosing a client’s problem, not immediately offering up solutions for it, is key to being a great financial planner. 

Carl pointed out that of course, there’s a science to what we do; it takes skill and logic to come up with the right numbers for our clients. But most of what our profession entails includes “the stuff that kept you up at night,” as he put it. Listening to your clients’ dreams, goals, and fears. Emotions play a huge role in our clients’ decisions. When emotions run high, someone might be inclined to make an irrational financial decision. And throwing a logical, rational solution at the situation won’t work.   

“You can’t solve it with a spreadsheet and calculator,” said Carl. “What they want first is to be heard. They want to be seen. They want space.”

Carl’s advice for new planners

With the COVID-19 pandemic going on, now more than ever we need to truly listen to our clients, rather than rush to change their minds or solve their problems. That’s the real work that we have the potential to do, “true work” as Carl also put it. That’s what he sees himself doing in the future: helping people do their thing, whether that’s in the financial planning space or not. 

One way we can achieve our goals? Stop putting up intentional roadblocks for ourselves. Get rid of the excuses, do the work and understand the value in it. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and say what you have to say.

“If you think it’s interesting and important and helpful, it is,” said Carl. “If I think I captured it, then I’m going to put it out in the public. It’s not my job to decide if I hit the mark. My job is to do the work and put it out.”

We’re so excited to have Carl on YAFPNW this week. Tune in to the full episode and give it a listen!



[tweet_box design=”box_10″ url=”” float=”none” excerpt=”Forget getting better at sales. Get better at listening. – @behaviorgap on #YAFPNW”]Forget getting better at sales. Get better at listening. – @behaviorgap on #YAFPNW 200[/tweet_box]


What You’ll Learn:

  • Being the “Lorax” for financial planners and clients
  • How financial planners can do “real work”
  • Why we should focus on diagnosing, not problem-solving
  • How emotions play into the profession
  • The difference between being simplistic and elegant simplicity
  • Carl’s process for his sketches
  • Where Carl sees himself in five to ten years 
  • Advice for new financial planners


Show Notes:

In this episode of YAFPNW, Hannah Moore, CFP®, and Carl Richards, CFP®, discuss:

Follow Carl on LinkedIn and on Twitter at @behaviorgap.


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Episode Transcript

Hannah: Well, thanks, Carl, for joining us today.

Carl Richards: Pleasure. Super excited to have this conversation.

Hannah: As we’ve heard in the introduction, you’re a New York Times columnist, and you were a financial planner. With that role that you’ve had and kind of stepping away from being a day to day financial planner, what has that position helped you see that other people in our profession might miss?

Carl Richards: That’s a really good question. I sort of feel like just through a series of really fortunate events, I’ve got sort of a really unique view because of the amount of kind of feedback I get from humans about planners, right? Like readers of my book or the column send me a lot of feedback about planners and what they want, what they don’t want, and that’s been incredibly useful.

Carl Richards: Sometimes I feel like I’m playing the role of the Lorax. Remember that Dr. Seuss character?

Hannah: Oh, yeah.

Carl Richards: Both ways. Sometimes I feel like I’m playing the Lorax for the planners. Like I speak for the planners because they’re too busy doing their planning to speak, so I’m telling you everything. Then sometimes I feel like I’m speaking for the people to the planners and saying things like, please will you keep it simpler. Please stop using those words that you use, I don’t know what they mean. Please stop telling me about the missing the 10 best days in the bear market, I just want to hug. You know what I mean? Those sorts of things. So it’s been really fun to have a foot in both of those worlds.

Hannah: When you’re speaking for planners to clients in the general population, what is it that the general population needs to hear from financial planners that you’re sharing with them?

Carl Richards: See, I believe that there is sort of a secret little society of real financial planners that do real work. By definition of real work, I mean not only are they technically like rock stars, where they’ve got the spreadsheet and the calculator nailed, they also know how to overlay on top of that this art of advice and empathy and trust and listening and asking good questions. There’s a small group worldwide of those people.

Carl Richards: Unfortunately, they’re secret, and most of the world when I tell people about the work that a real financial planner does, I’ve had people literally say things like, oh, that’s cute, Carl. Like the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, they don’t believe we exist. I often find myself saying like, oh yeah, I work with financial planners, and then I get that look, which is like, oh yeah, those people who sell me life insurance? I say, no, no, no, no, no, not like that. Right? Then I have to go on to explain.

Carl Richards: I don’t even know how to explain it, you just have to experience it. But there’s this group of people who do amazing work, and I’ve seen it for the last 25 years. I mean, I felt like I was doing it for a long time and I’ve seen so many other people do real amazing work.

Carl Richards: I’m going to do this someday. I’ve toyed around with I want to take a group of journalists on a tour. I’m like, come with me. We’re going to go see this rare breed of human called a real financial planner in the wild. Like, come with me, watch, and drive them around to different offices and help them see the work. Because it’s so hard to explain what a real planner does because people have always had this experience with the opposite. The general traditional financial services industry is what they’re thinking they’re going to get, and yet when they sit down and meet with a real pro, it’s so much different. So it’s almost hard to put words to it.

Hannah: As a financial planning profession, are we just not doing a good job marketing ourselves? Are we just not using the right words? How can we be better as the real financial planners?

Carl Richards: Yeah, it’s a real dilemma. Here’s the dilemma. The words that we want to use, we are not allowed to use, because they’ve been co-opted by the fake people. So we can’t say things like you can trust me. Right? That’d be the last thing you could say, right? You can be confident in me. I’ll put you first ahead of my own interests. I won’t have conflict. It almost feels a bit like if somebody has to say that they must be hiding something. So we’re in a real pickle.

Carl Richards: So the only thing I think, and this is what I did and it’s what I would encourage everybody to do, is you just kind of tell those stories, right? I realize there’s some problems with case study marketing, but go read my books. I tell all those stories in the books. Those never got me in any trouble. So I think we need to do a better job of finding creative ways to show people instead of telling them. To show them what that was. To allow them to feel what it is.

Carl Richards: So, yeah, we’re not doing a good job of it, but partially because it’s a really hard job to do. Secondarily, you’re too busy being a pro. To ask you to also be an amazing marketer is really hard. I think there are companies and organizations that should do a better job, but that’s not for me to worry about.

Hannah: One of the things that you had mentioned is that clients want simple. When did you realize this, and has this been a theme through most of your work?

Carl Richards: Yeah. So I didn’t realize I was doing this and I didn’t realize it was just sort of structurally how my brain worked until maybe five years ago. I’ve been writing that the Sketch Guy column weekly for 10 years, and it wasn’t until three or four years into it I realized that it wasn’t really even about money that I was addicted to, it was this idea of taking it a complex thing that really matters to somebody and making it simple.

Carl Richards: For your audience, it’s just a natural thing. For the fake financial advisor audience, it’s a sales tool. Complexity is a selling tool for them. For your audience, the people that listen to this, it’s just simply this thing that we naturally do. As we understand more and more about a particular subject, it’s a natural tendency to think people care, or at least that they want us to tell them about it.

Carl Richards: Also, we have a problem. Michael Kitces and I have had this argument a bunch and it’s really fun, we enjoy talking about this. There’s also a problem, we think we’re in the solution business and we’re not. We’re in the problem understanding business. Nobody cares about your solutions. They care about their problems. So if you understand if you make that switch, what you really want to become good at, yeah, you’ve got to be a rock star on the solutions. I mean, you’ve got to be better than anybody else. You have to be. But that’s just table stakes. What you really want to become good at is the diagnosis, right? Asking really good questions, listening, making things super simple, understanding that when you say risk and you get a blank stare, it doesn’t help to say, standard deviation. Right? I’ve been warned.

Carl Richards: So if we understand that we’re not in the solution business, at least at the beginning of a client engagement you’re not on the solution business. You can’t write a prescription until you’ve thoroughly diagnosed. So be better at thoroughly diagnosing. Then we understand if you thoroughly diagnose, think about what happens when you go to the doctor. If you feel thoroughly diagnosed and you leave with a piece of paper that you can’t even read, you take that piece of paper to a scary place with people with scary white coats on and you give it to them. They fill it, they make you sign a form that says if you grow a third arm, that you won’t operate heavy farm equipment, whatever, and you take it home and you take it. You didn’t get a second opinion, you didn’t Google the medicine, you just took it. Well, it couldn’t be any simpler than that. The only reason it was that simple was because you felt thoroughly diagnosed. I’m going to argue it’s not because he was a doctor. It’s not because she had a white coat on or MD after her name. It’s because she thoroughly diagnosed you.

Carl Richards: So the solution can be super simple if the diagnosis is thorough. Two things have to happen. You have to thoroughly diagnose for your own good to make sure your solution is good. Number two, the client has to feel thoroughly diagnosed. Those are two separate things, right? You could nail it in the first five minutes as you get better in this industry, right? You pattern match so fast that in the first five minutes you’re like, I already know what I’m going to tell this client, but you can’t tell him yet. You’ve got to let them feel thoroughly diagnosed, right?

Carl Richards: So if that happens, then the solution can be simple. If that doesn’t happen, the solution’s going to be complex, and you’ve got to overcome objections, you’ve got to go get sales training, and you’ve got to be all that stuff. I would just say throw all that out the window. Forget getting better at sales. Get better at listening.

Hannah: You’ve said several times in there it’s about how the client feels. It’s been interesting because I’ve been watching conversations online with newer financial planners. For context, we’re going through this, the coronavirus is going on, I just got a shelter in place order from my city right now, so we don’t know how long this is going to go on. It’s been really interesting. Tell me about the relationship between emotions and the feeling and logic.

Carl Richards: Let me tell you a quick story. I’ve got a really good planner who has an investment process he’s super proud of. It’s an evidence-based research investment process. Like most of us who adopt that form of investing, we think everybody cares and we’re super smart and we run around. We think it’s our value proposition, so we tell everybody. He had a client, it was a really large client, between 15 and 20 million, as I recall. They were interviewing a couple of different firms and they finally decided to join my friend, his name is Matt. They finally decided to hire Matt and his firm.

Carl Richards: The client in this relationship, it was the wife who was the breadwinner. She had sold her business. She was the one making major decisions. She called Matt and said, Matt, listen, we’ve decided to join your firm. We decided to hire you guys as our financial planners. She said, but I want to make something clear. It’s not because of that investment process you’re so proud of. In fact, it’s kind of in spite of it. She said it’s because of the way you made us feel, and particularly the way you made our adult children feel.

Carl Richards: I’ve been playing with that idea since 20 years ago when I got my first job in this industry, that money doesn’t equal spreadsheets and calculators, it equals emotion and feeling. But when I heard that story, it was like, what do you even do with that? What does it even mean? I think to your question, what’s the relationship? We’ve just got this wrong. Yes, of course there is a science to finance. Yes, of course there are things that fit in the spreadsheet and the calculator. But most of this is dreams and goals and fears and worries. The stuff that kept you up at night.

Carl Richards: Hannah, I bet if I said something like, don’t be spoiled. I mean, what’s just happened to you?

Hannah: Oh yeah, immediately defenses are up.

Carl Richards: Yeah. For some, maybe not you, I took a chance there, but for some you feel like you’re seven again and your mom or dad are saying, don’t be spoiled. Right? Or we don’t talk about that. Or you have the fear of watching your parents worry about whether or not they were going to be able to pay for the bills next week. Or the opposite, like happiness and joy where somehow you were rewarded. Or your sense of identity, even. Your sense of love, safety, and belonging sometimes are wrapped up in money. So don’t tell me you think you’ve got a spreadsheet and calculator job. My friend, I have to tell you, yes, you do. But on top of that, you’ve got a feelings and emotion job.

Hannah: I’m even cringing asking this question, but I’m still going to ask it. Can you ever, quote, solve emotions with logic or with spreadsheets?

Carl Richards: Yes. Actually, that’s such a good question. I think particularly in sort of the context of the time we’re talking, but it’s always true. Let’s just use scary markets as an example. When somebody’s scared, and it’s true for fear and it’s true for greed as well, but when somebody’s scared and they want to get out and they make a phone call like, hey, don’t you see what’s going on? I just want to get out. What we are trained to do, and this is still true and I actually kind of can’t believe it, but it’s still true. We are trained to point to facts and figures, right? I’m not using the word lecture like a parent, but we’re trained to lecture like a college professor. We’re trained to spray them with facts and figures. Oh, don’t you know the 10 best days? If you missed the 10… We all use the 10 best days thing. We see this online. We see this on Twitter. We see this in the articles people are writing in light of a scary market.

Carl Richards: Your question, no. When somebody is in the middle of making a decision that is emotional, and we could even say it might be natural, just to be clear. It might be natural to want to get out because we’re wired to get away from things that scare us, but it’s not rational. When somebody is making an irrational decision, it doesn’t work to try and reason with them. Try that with your teenager. See how it goes. Right? Try somebody who’s smoking currently with a cigarette in their mouth. Try giving them some stats about lung cancer. It doesn’t work.

Carl Richards: So, no, you can’t solve it with a spreadsheet and calculator. What they want first is to be heard. They want to be seen. They want space. I’m a huge fan of the work being done in financial therapy, but it doesn’t have to even go quite that far. You can just simply be, wow, sounds like you’re really scared right now or nervous about the market. In fact, Hannah, I get nervous too when I look at the news. It can be that simple. Then we can reconnect them to the things they told us were important, like the plan. Then we can get to, okay, let’s talk a little bit about this, and then we can get the facts and figures, historical data, the numbers, the calculator. But first, a hug, right? That’s the way I like to think of it.

Hannah: You’ve talked about making things simple. I know a lot of financial planners who are listening to this are like, yes, and I’m dealing with all of these really complex things. What’s your process to help, as you’re trying to take a complex idea, to make that simple? What’s your process look like?

Carl Richards: So here’s the way I think about it. It might be useful, if you’re not driving, just grab a piece of paper and on the left hand side of the paper take a pen and just start right in the middle of the paper, just started drawing a line across the paper. About the time you get to the middle, you’ve got a straight line about to the middle, when you get to the middle start just looping it around. Make a big ball of yarn, right? So make a big ball of yarn, big, messy, messy ball of yarn, and then take that line back out the other side.

Carl Richards: That’s really how I describe the process. It’s like I’ve got a question I want to solve. Got this interesting problem I’ve got to deal with. Then you go into it. This also points at a fear that especially new financial planners think. If I make this too simple, nobody will need me. I just want to tell you, that’s a lie of the devil. It’s a trick. The trick of the devil. He’s trying to trick you, because it’s so untrue. But I understand where it comes from because I felt the same way. Here’s why.

Carl Richards: On the left hand side of the paper, before you go into that ball of yarn, is a place called simplistic. That’s where you are worried about being. That’s where people who should be selling shoes or cars, but are pretending to be financial advisors, that’s where they live.

Carl Richards: You, Mr. and Mrs. Financial Planner, you’ve gone into that ball of yarn. So you’ve got a question, you dive into it, you test assumptions, you look at the nuance, you look at the edge cases. What happens if it’s 10% different than I expected? What happens if…? You’re checking, oh, what about this, and what about this, and what about this? You’re looking at the exceptions, the rules. You’re talking to people. In the middle there it feels confusing and chaotic and you’re like, I don’t know really what to do. Then you get quiet, you analyze all of it, and you say, look, I think here’s the things that matter.

Carl Richards: So my process is that. I take some problem, I go in, I get really frustrated in the middle of that ball of yarn. I label that ball of yarn complexity. I love to just bury myself in the complexity of it, the nuance, and realize it feels messy. Sometimes we get confused by that feeling. We think we’re doing something wrong. You should celebrate that feeling. I don’t know. I’m unmoored. It feels messy. Okay, good. It means I’m doing something right. Then we just kind of got to take a guess.

Carl Richards: I like thinking of this. There’s a saying. Strong opinion, loosely held. I like even better, thoughtful. Thoughtful opinion, loosely held. So after all this research and work I’ve done, and cases and things I’ve reviewed, I’m going to make a guess about the direction, I’m going to have a thoughtful opinion about the direction that I’m going to go forward. That’s when you come out the other side.

Carl Richards: Now do you see the difference between that? That’s called elegant simplicity on the other side. There’s a big difference between simplistic, like I don’t even know what I’m talking about so I’m just going to make it up, and I’ve gone through this. Often getting to an elegantly simple solution involves, John Vogel said once, I’m paraphrasing, but he said it involves cutting through swaths of complexity.

Carl Richards: So I would write this out, I’d say what matters, I’d talk to different people, and then I’d say, here’s what matters. What’s the 80%? What’s the most important concept? Games I play: if I had to reduce it to 250 words, which is so hard. If I had to reduce it to 250 words, what would I say? If I had to reduce it to one piece of card stock and I had to use a Sharpie to do it so it was a blunt instrument, what would I put on that piece of paper?

Carl Richards: Then you can do all sorts of things like after you’ve got it, and maybe this is a paper you’ve written to a client or it’s a marketing piece, then you can go through, and I love doing this, cutaway anything that distracts from the point. We call that the zinger. Internally, we call that the zinger. You can call it a punch line. In the newspaper business, we call it the lede. Don’t bury the lede. So anything that distracts from the point, take it away. Pull it out. We literally go and take whole sentences and paragraphs out of stuff and go, did we lose anything? You only get to make one point.

Carl Richards: I mean, geez, I’ve debated this Kitces all day long, because he doesn’t agree with me here. He thinks you can make 87 points on one piece of paper or one weekend reading. I’m like, come on, brother.

Hannah: Oh my God, one blog post. You’re like, holy cow.

Carl Richards: Yeah. That’s a year’s worth of reading for me. So anyway, those are some of the things I play with. But I think the most important part is the mindset of understanding, you, the listeners of this podcast, are not, or they shortly won’t be, simplistic. Yeah, you should be fearful about being replaced when you’re simplistic. You’re elegantly simple.

Carl Richards: Then the last thing I’ll say on this, because I think it’s important for this audience, because I get this all the time. Well, I’m younger. I’m new in the business. I think what you do first is as you proceed, just take the questions you’re interested in answering for people and make sure your level of competence is 20% above that. Right? You are totally confident with that question. Then just keep moving those things up, right? So if you get a question that’s above your level of confidence, confidently say, I don’t know the answer to that, but give me whatever. Give me a week. Give me a couple of days. I know who to call. I will find you an answer. Confidently say that. Because people will say, oh my gosh, that’s amazing. It’s okay.

Carl Richards: But the way to build your business is just to find questions you’re really interested in answering that your level of competence is above those questions. You know the answer, you feel totally confident. Then over time you’re just going to keep moving those two bars up higher and higher and higher, and when you don’t know, you’re going to say, I don’t know. I’m still saying I don’t know all the time. Like, hey brother, I don’t know the answer to that, but it’s not going to take me very many phone calls to get it.

Hannah: So we’re talking about taking these complex ideas and making them simple, or this elegant simplicity. I’m curious, how do you know when you’ve been successful in making things simple?

Carl Richards: So one thing you have to realize in playing that game is that it requires you to drop a lot of nuance. I often get it wrong, right? There are times when there are answers that are simple, elegant, and wrong. I’ve done my share of that. The way I know is the response I get. I have a couple bellwether people, and one of them just happens to be a really good friend, who is also my editor. So I’ll get a response from them.

Carl Richards: But here’s maybe a simpler way, is when it resonates with you. If you think it’s interesting and important and helpful, it is. I know quickly, immediately, as soon as I said that, I could feel people feeling the imposter syndrome. Like, well yeah, but nobody else thinks it is. Yes, they do. I had to convince myself of that three or four times a day for 15 years. If you think it’s interesting, other people do too, and I think that’s the best bellwether to whether or not you’ve hit the mark.

Carl Richards: In my case, the mark, I’m trying to make things simple. If I think I captured it, then I’m going to put it out in the public. It’s not my job to decide if I hit the mark. My job is to do the work and put it out.

Hannah: Speaking of doing the work, one of the things that’s most impressive to me is that you’ve been doing this weekly sketch for 10 years. Do you ever run out of ideas for sketches? Or what is that continuous process of taking these complex ideas and making them simple, but also making these sketches? What does that look like for you? Or is that difficult to keep coming up with ideas?

Carl Richards: When we started this we did this little experiment. It was five days, it was called Ask an Expert. That’s how this happened. I answered a question every day for five days. At the end, I said to the editor of the New York Times, I said, hey, should we keep going? He was like, well, how often? I said how about once a week? He said, well, won’t you run out of things to say? I said, I don’t know. Let’s find out.

Carl Richards: So I still have more ideas. My list of sort of draft ideas, which I sort of keep just in case anybody asks, because everybody wants to know what are the tools and tactics? I just simply use Apple Notes. I pull up a little note and I write an idea down. That’s it. That’s the end. There’s nothing more complex than that and nothing more complicated than that. So then what I do is, yes, it’s hard, often it’s a question or a feeling. It’s something like I feel like my job in the world is to notice things and then share them. Often it’s just a little mindset shift. Like, oh, can we look at this just a little differently? Most of the time it starts with writing it and then trying to illustrate it.

Carl Richards: Illustrating it is getting harder. That’s getting harder because I went through my Venn diagram phase, and then I went through my bar graph phase, and then I went through my… That’s getting a little bit harder, but finding things to write about isn’t getting any harder.

Hannah: Where do you see yourself in five or ten years? Do you see yourself continuing what you’re doing?

Carl Richards: I really want, and we’re actively working on this, and to large degree that’s what The Fellowship and the Society of Advice represents, is I want to take this body of work and… I realize that nobody gave me permission to do this. I gave myself permission to do it. If it doesn’t work for some people, that’s fine. It’s not for them, it’s okay. I want to take my body of work and say, look, I’d like to kind of forcibly insert my opinion into the industry of what real financial planning is about and have that in the form of a… To a large degree that’s what The Fellowship is. This is my manifesto.

Carl Richards: I’m going to focus more over the next five to ten years on the whole human. Whether that’s a financial planner or not, just somebody who’s a creative entrepreneur, I’m going to be focusing more on how do we do work that we’re called to do and how do we deal… I call it dancing with dragons. How do we dance with dragons? The reason for dragons is dragons guard all the goods, right? Dragons are awesome, going to where dragons live is awesome, but you could also die there. It’s not easy work. So how do you do creative work? How do you do work that’s true?

Carl Richards: I’ve worked with so many financial planners, especially young ones, that are like, wait, I had a dream about what this would be like and now I’m in a position where I’m forced to sell life insurance. This is not what I wanted. That would be an example of somebody I’d want to say like, okay, let’s do the thing you wanted. Well, no, but I’m not allowed to. What, what, what? Who told you you’re not allowed to? Giving people permission to do the thing, whatever the thing is, that’s what I want to do for the next… I’m giving myself two years to kind of put this big sort of bow on my work specifically around financial planning, and then I want to spend 10 years helping people do their thing.

Hannah: I’ve heard throughout this interview you’ve mentioned the word creative and creating and words like that. Do you ever find yourself in a place where, the phrase is a creative desert, that’s coming to mind, where you don’t feel inspired or creative? If you do, what do you do to get out of that?

Carl Richards: Yeah, totally. I do all the time. What I do is I create. I love when Seth Godin talks about plumbers don’t get plumber’s block. Right? You just get up and get to work. So I have found when I’m feeling blocked, the single best thing I can do is create, and then the fly wheel starts. To me it’s talking. I just get on the phone and have a conversation with somebody, or talk through something, and then suddenly the energy is there and the flywheel starts and then it’s just like, boom, you’re off and running.

Carl Richards: So yeah, I think there’s a myth around creativity, and maybe it works this way for some people, the muse has to show up. Oh, Elizabeth Gilbert’s great talk around the muse showing up. She said for me it’s more like I’m more like a mule. Right? I just show up and get to work.

Carl Richards: I think, by the way, financial planners are artists. Right? Dealing with massive uncertainty. Creating the future. Painting a picture of that. I think we are trained artists. But if you have a piece of I want to write a little bit more, I want to create a little bit more, well, the single best thing to do is write. You want to write? Then write. You want to podcast? Then podcast. Don’t give me any excuses.

Carl Richards: I have a podcast. I was like, oh geez, it’s not highly edited and I don’t want to deal with getting guests so I can’t have a podcast. Well, guess what? You can do a podcast without guests. Oh, did you know that? Yeah, you can. Oh, who gave you permission? Oh, I did. Do you know what I’m saying? I love these intentional constraints. Anytime I come up with an excuse to not do something, I like to flip it and say, well, wait, what if I just used that as a constraint? Turns out if I’m going to have a podcast, I’m not going to have guests. Whoa, are you allowed to do that? Yeah. Well, that’s amazing. We’re at about a million downloads, or a million plays. Nobody even knows about it. It’s a secret podcast. It’s at a million plays. It’s just me talking for three to seven minutes a day.

Carl Richards: So anyway, that’s an example of when you feel a block, you can flip the block and say, ah, I’m a huge fan of really intentional constraints. Like Sharpie and card stock. Well, why don’t you use…? Because if I can’t do it with Sharpie and card stock, I can’t do it. Now it’s my iPad Pro and an Apple Pencil and the most basic drawing app. If I can’t do it with that, I haven’t gotten it right yet.

Carl Richards: So intentional constraints. Do the work. Don’t give me these excuses. I mean, I do want to reach out and give you a hug right now. I know it’s hard. I know it. But then I want to say a little punch in the face, which is like, let’s get to work. We don’t have time for this, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t. We’ve got to get after it.

Hannah: What would be the one thing you’d want to tell new financial planners?

Carl Richards: Ah, geez. Just please understand the value of the work you do. Real financial advice has never been harder to find, because there’s so much fake, there’s so many books. Real financial advice has never been harder to find and therefore never been more valuable.

Carl Richards: So when you’re feeling beat up a bit and you’re like, I don’t even know. I’ve had this conversation so many times with young planners. This industry isn’t what I thought it was. Yeah. Then make it what you thought it was. There’s a place for you. Every time I have that, I’m like, what’s your vision of it? They tell me and I’m like, that! That’s the thing we need. Please don’t go away. Do the thing. If it involves playing a little chess for a while so you can earn your stripes or whatever it takes, do it. Just understand that the value you provide the world is massive. That’s the one thing. Don’t forget how valuable you are.

Hannah: For people listening, where can they follow you, or where can they keep in touch?

Carl Richards: Well, you can follow me on Twitter. It’s @behaviorgap. But the single best thing to do is to go to the and just dance with the dragons a little bit. Trust me, put your email address in, and get an invitation to The Fellowship. Because even if you decide not to join The Fellowship, the little secret is the first four days I send you some of my best work ever.

Carl Richards: It’s called The Four Secrets. We don’t tell anybody about it, so this is a secret. But my goal, if everybody puts their email address in there, is to give them such valuable content that even if they don’t ever join The Fellowship, they feel like it’s been well worth their time. So go to the

Hannah: Great. Well, thanks for joining us today, Carl.

Carl Richards: Oh, my pleasure. It was super fun. Thank you for the work you do. It’s impactful. We all know you don’t have to be doing this, but we’re really, really glad you are.

Hannah: Oh, well thank you. I appreciate that.