On Being Vulnerable
My talented writer friend Wendy Cook, who crafted the content for our Inspired Financial Planners website, wrote in my bio that I had experienced two hurricanes. On the surface, this is a wow, and begs the astonished question, “You mean you lost your house?” Yes. But if you peek below the surface, the bigger question is, “What does it mean to experience that kind of loss?” Loss, death, and all of life’s tragedies have a way of transforming us. They can make us more resilient, but they can make us more fragile, easy to crack when the next shoe drops. These experiences can harden us, but they can also make us more tender hearted when witnessing others great pain. They can make us bitter, but can also lead us to a grateful appreciation of the wonders of the world.
Life-changing events also make us vulnerable. Our brains are fuzzy, our vision cloudy, and our decision-making abilities decline. Tasks that we once breezed through, become unmanageable, leaving us feeling stuck in mud, unable to take the next step. And, during this time, we become easy prey to those who are more concerned with their own personal welfare instead of ours. Although some of us may lead charmed lives, most of us have experienced grief from the loss of a loved one or some major life upheaval by the time we are 60 years old. Hurricanes that tore through my towns like Godzilla may have been my defining moments, but there were also deaths of loved ones that ripped my heart out.
So, how have these events transformed me as a person and as an advisor? It has made me more tolerant of other’s erratic behaviors, and sometimes their angry outbursts, when I know they are still mired in trauma. It has made me more patient and a better listener as I sit with a new widow or divorcee. It has made me more understanding of a newly retired professional who now feels lost, directionless, and without purpose. It has heightened my sensitivity when I suspect a vulnerable person is being manipulated. Many times, it has made me feel like I want to grab my red cape and swoop down to save that person. Of course, I cannot do that. I cannot steal their sorrow, nor mend their heartache. But I can be a trusted listener, I can be patient, and I can steer them away from an unscrupulous transaction. I can be present to just sit and listen. I can wait for them to tell me their whole story and I can hold off offering any guidance until I hear that story. And, I can offer financial guidance and a plan to ease their troubles that fits with their story.