A Personal Trainer, a Professor, and an Advisor Walk into a Bar

Okay, full disclosure, this post has nothing to do with those three individuals going to a bar.  It was just a catchy headline.  Now that I have your attention though…

A few months ago, I was reading the New York Times’ best-selling book ‘The Last Lecture’ by Randy Pausch.

I also wrote about an excerpt from the same book a few months ago, but today I wanted to take a different lesson away from it.

In one of the chapters, Pausch writes about the customer service model that exists in different industries.  He compares a professor to a personal trainer rather than a retail employee.

As Pausch writes:

“We professors play the roles of trainers, giving people access to the equipment (books, labs, our expertise) and after that, it is our job to be demanding.  We need to make sure that our students are exerting themselves.  We need to praise them when they deserve it and to tell them honestly when they have it in them to work harder.

Most importantly we need to let them know how to judge for themselves how they’re coming along.  The great thing about working out at a gym is that if you put in effort, you get very obvious results.  The same should be true of college.  A professor’s job is to teach students how to see their minds growing in the same way they can see their muscles grow when they look in a mirror.”

This is a spot-on comparison.  Being an investment advisor, I naturally look for ways to relate mostly everything back to our industry.

All the points made by Pausch concerning professors and trainers can also be said for a good investment advisor/financial planner.

Don’t believe me?  Let’s break it down.

Giving people “access to the equipment”

  • A personal trainer provides the gym equipment, workout routines, knowledge of physical fitness world and more.
  • A professor provides a subject curriculum, textbooks, workbooks, knowledge of the course subject and more.
  • An advisor provides financial planning exercises, budgeting worksheets, investment analysis, retirement planning and more.

Need to make sure individuals are exerting themselves/offer praise and criticism when necessary

  • A personal trainer gets that extra rep out of their client, pushes them to give a little more effort to get them over the physical hurdle. They congratulate a client on getting a new personal best or motivate them to try harder the next time.
  • A professor assigns tough projects to challenge students, praises them when top grades are received, and inspires them to try harder when they fail.
  • An advisor gives their client homework to organize all their monthly numbers, identify life goals and risk tolerances, offers praise when they meet expectations and nudges back in the right direction when behavior slips, or they stray from the plan too much.

If you put in the effort, you get very obvious results

  • The results from going to the gym and working with a trainer can be seen in the mirror, felt in your body and mind.
  • The results from studying hard and applying yourself in school can be measured by the grades you receive, and your increasing knowledge of the subject.
  • The results from working with an advisor/planner can be seen in your bank account over time, your investment accounts over time, and felt in your mind when you’re at peace.

Quite possibly the MOST important comparison made by Pausch is the last one.

“A professor’s job is to teach students how to see their minds growing in the same way they can see their muscles grow when they look in a mirror.”

The same can be said for advisors, and it all relates back to one thing: expectation setting.

Advisors that set appropriate expectations for their clients from the get go can help them identify how to measure their results along the way.  It’s much easier to know when you’re reaching your goals when you’ve defined them at the onset.  Going through the planning process is like setting weight loss goals, weight lifting goals, or getting a syllabus that outlines what it takes to pass the class in college.

While a professor, a personal trainer, and an advisor all have VERY different jobs, the underlying objectives of those jobs are very similar.  It’s all about lifting up individuals to get the very best out of them, regardless of the field.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *