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People who most often evoke inspiration in others aren’t politicians or world leaders, but doctors, scientists, artists, entrepreneurs and impressive people in our inner circles, according to a study.fizkes/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

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When it comes to Jacqueline Soong’s clients, many are a lot like her – young, ambitious, and launching careers while making their way through the economy’s current quagmire of unattainable mortgages, smouldering student debt and inflation.

Yet, there’s one client who stands out. Let’s call her Lisa.

“She was saving oodles of money and bought her own house. Everything was picture perfect,” says Ms. Soong, a certified financial planner (CFP) with Desjardins Financial Security Investments Inc. in Toronto.

Then the unexpected – Lisa ditched her lucrative, cushy career to go out on her own and start a consulting firm. Gone were the pension, benefits, top salary and maternity support she would need someday. The client traded those in for autonomy and the satisfaction of building a company from the ground up. Thinking about starting a family eventually, she also hired employees so she could balance business with a baby when the time came. She was prepared.

Ms. Soong wasn’t just deeply impressed by her long-time client’s chutzpah, she was motivated to do more with her own life and career too.

“Just seeing her go through that, it really inspired me to say, ‘I’ve got to do this and I’ve got to do this soon,’” says Ms. Soong, adding that she’s inspired to level up her business by attracting new clients, work hard and shoot for the stars.

Almost every advisor probably has at least one client on their roster like Lisa, someone who lights a spark in others so they’ll examine their own lives and strive for more.

They’re the ones who beat adversity, set goals and do everything in their power to achieve them. They’re bold, courageous, but also empathetic and authentic. They have the goods to make a positive impact, whether it’s running a successful business or uplifting others as a leader.

The value of inspiration

Inspiration – defined as a human experience that feels good and evokes change – is important to us. A 2021 report issued by global communications network Wunderman Thompson showed people value inspiration over sleep, sex, or treats. People who most often evoke inspiration in others aren’t politicians or world leaders though, but doctors, scientists, artists, entrepreneurs and impressive people in our inner circles.

Advisors – whose practices depend on building strong relationships with these remarkable people – often have a front-row seat to see how they tick.

Shiho Okuyama, senior investment advisor at BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc. in Toronto, also has a client who checks all the boxes of being inspirational. Only in her 40s, the client’s corporate career is flying sky high. But it’s her personal and leadership skills that are truly impressive.

“She has a real passion for people. Even though she has a very demanding role and schedule, every time I talk to her she is fully present. It’s the way of being that inspires me. I take that and I’m able to implement it into my own practice” she says, noting that she’s since been recognized for having a top-ranked advisory practice at BMO Nesbitt Burns, based on client surveys.

What’s more, Ms. Okuyama has internalized this client’s confidence, merged it with her own passion for financial literacy, and posted wealth management education videos on social media. As a self-proclaimed former “timid, shy little girl” it’s a big deal.

“When you see the achievements of others, you know it can be done. It’s inspiring, motivating and encouraging,” she says. “It shows you what is possible.”

Helping overcome challenges also inspires

Not all inspirational clients are high-rollers or industry success stories, though. Just ask Mallory McGrath, certified executor advisor, and chief executive officer and founder of Viive Planning Ltd. in Toronto, which focuses on holistic aging and legacy planning.

Recently she guided a couple through some tough decisions about end-of-life plans. At the end, Ms. McGrath turned the conversation to their grown children. It was time for the couple to share their wishes with the rest of the family.

“It was just a hard stop,” she says. “They said, ‘We can’t do this. We didn’t even really have the sex talk with our kids. We can’t sit down and talk to them about death.’”

After some gentle questioning, the trio found a solution. The family used to write notes to each other and slip them under the bedroom door when they had important, but uncomfortable things to say. Why not try that tactic again? They crafted handwritten notes to each child expressing their wishes, which they dropped in the mail.

It worked. The family eventually had a video call without any prompting from Ms. McGrath and the ensuing conversations brought them even closer together.

The result was a win for Ms. McGrath, too, but for a completely different reason.

“It taught me to be more observant about the people in my family and what their communication styles are,” she says, admitting to being unafraid of talking about difficult emotions. But one of her parents? Not so much. “So, I started talking to one parent more over text and e-mail because they respond better when they can read, process and respond.”

Learning life lessons as clients go through them

Sometimes, it’s not one single client that inspires advisors to make rewarding changes in their own lives, but a building sense of mortality and life’s fleetingness as they watch clients grapple with unexpected challenges.

Maybe it’s the dentist who finally decides to retire and travel the world, only to suffer a stroke six months later. Or the IT specialist who suddenly needs to care for an elderly parent full-time. These cautionary tales inspire change, too.

Allan Norman, founding partner and CFP at Atlantis Financial Inc., in Barrie Ont., has seen enough of these types of stories play out. They’ve motivated him to shift away from investment advising to lifestyle planning because he finds it rewarding.

He’s also now taking off more time to enjoy his own life and family – and just flew down to Miami to watch his first NHL game in person.

“I see what everyone else does and I do think about my own life,” he says. “You get to a certain age and you realize, ‘Time is moving on. There’s an endpoint here. What are we waiting for?’”

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