In the world of sports, the most gifted athletes are not always the most successful. However, those who develop the mindset of a champion, are the most consistently successful.

For financial planners, it’s the same story. Talent, product knowledge and a top-notch sales skillset alone do not guarantee success for an advisor's practice.

In fact, top-selling performance doesn't come from just having knowledge and skills. The key ingredient advisors often miss, that's usually absent from most kinds of advisor training, is having the right mindset.


Adversity goes with the territory in the financial services industry. And how one handles adversity, including dealing with economic crises, unpredictable markets, toxic clients, new fiduciary and compliance demands, as well as prospecting, is a function of the advisor’s mindset.

Why are some advisors beaten down by adversity, while others maintain control of their destiny? The answer is expectations -- a critical ingredient of ones’ mindset.

Psychology books, including "Learned Optimism," by psychologist Martin Seligman, cite research in the field of “Positive Psychology,” which shows that an optimistic mindset can positively affect sales productivity in many industries, including finance and insurance.


Having an optimistic mindset means that regardless of the challenges you face in your advisory career, mistakes you may have made, difficult clients you had to manage, how many prospecting adventures led to rejection, you remain committed to the belief that you will succeed. 

Optimistic advisors look at setbacks as temporary, not chronic issues, and they explain to themselves why things didn’t go well and the adjustments they will make to avoid those problems in the future.

Adversity is therefore viewed as an opportunity to refine skills, perhaps consult a mentor, and do research, all with the confidence that they will rebound quickly from setbacks.


Pessimistic advisors, on the other hand, view setbacks as examples of their inability to deal with adversity that go with the territory, and blame their lack of talent, experience and/or knowledge for their shortcomings. They do not rebound quickly, remain negative in their thinking and believe there is nothing they can do to avoid the same problems in the future.

Studies conducted with two insurance companies, according to the article "Applying Learned Optimism to Increase Sales Productivity," by Peter Schulman in the Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, find that sales professionals with an optimistic mindset sold 35% more insurance than those with a pessimistic mindset, when knowledge and experience among all of the sales professionals were the same. Furthermore, the pessimists were twice as likely to quit after their first year in the business, than optimists.

Most advisors will find they aren't prisoners of their past habits, even if they fall within the pessimistic mindset. You can learn to modify your mindset and all of its ingredients, including changing to a more optimistic orientation.

Jack Singer is a professional sport and industrial psychologist, as well as a speaker, trainer and coach for financial professionals. He is also author of “The Financial Advisor’s Ultimate Stress Mastery Guide.” To learn more, visit

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