I often say that my success is a result of good habits I’ve developed over the years, both in football and in business. Bad habits have led me down the wrong roads, and sometimes to bad decisions.
As a quarterback during my NFL career, I needed to establish a regular routine for preparing for a new game each week. The night before a game, I visualized different situations in my head, like “1st and goal at the 5-yard line, right hash mark;” “3rd and 8 at the 40-yard line, left hash mark,” and so on. And I would play out the different scenarios in my mind, like a movie script.
Inevitably, I ended up with almost those exact situations during the real games. As a result of my previous mental preparation, my reflexes were stronger and faster, and my reactions were better matched to each of those scenarios on the field. It works in business the same way it did in football. Here are the five things I do every working day to hone my reflexes and expand my thinking:
1. Make sure your morning routine is always the same. After I wake up and walk and feed the dogs, I warm up by reading. I read everything: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and my hometown paper, the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Reading current news helps your brain explode with ideas and sets off your creativity. Plus, as a financial professional, current news is great fodder for initiating discussions with your prospects and clients.
2. Check in with colleagues (or clients). As soon as I get into the office, I take a tour. I ask everybody what they’re thinking, what they’re working on. I do it not to check up on them, but to learn from them. My brain has already been warmed up from the reading, so the next step is listening. I ask everybody questions and I listen hard, especially to things I don’t know much about. If you’re an independent financial professional and you work alone, check in with your clients. Again, ask questions, learn from them, find out what they are concerned about, excited about, or curious about.
3. Be responsive. I’ve had one consistent mantra throughout my life: Treat people with respect. And on any given business day, treating people with respect starts with returning calls and emails. Everybody who has ever done business with me knows that I am almost always reachable. And if for some reason I’m not, you’ll be told why and when I’ll get back to you. Treating people with respect is a discipline, no different than exercise or balancing your accounts, and it has to be practiced every single day.
4. Expose yourself to outside ideas. I never have business lunches. I don’t believe in them, and I don’t think they’re especially productive. I also never have lunch in the office. Every day, I have lunch outside my office with non-business people; sometimes they’re my regular group of friends, sometimes they’re people I recently met. But we never talk business. If you spend all day thinking about business, doing business, worrying about business, you never have a chance to calm your brain or expand your world. Having lunch with people outside your business circle breaks up your day and resets your brain, so you can then return to the office refreshed, relaxed and ready to conquer the world.
5. Thank someone. At least once a day, I send a message of positive reinforcement to someone. It might be a partner, a client, or even a stranger I just read about in the paper. The message is never long or fancy; it can be via email, phone call, or text. But it is sincere and it always contains the words “thanks” and “appreciate.” Usually, I do this multiple times a day to many different types of people, and my team knows to conclude every transaction with a sentence of honest appreciation. Of all my daily habits, positive reinforcement is probably the single most important ingredient to consistent success. If you can find even one person in the course of your day whom you can sincerely thank for something, then I guarantee that your day, and your business, will be richer for it.