BEYOND SUCCESS – Jeffrey Gitterman
Jeff Gitterman is an award winning financial advisor and the founder and CEO of
Gitterman & Associates Wealth Management, LLC. www.gawmllc.com. He is also the co-founder of Beyond Success, www.BeyondSuccessConsulting.com, a consulting firm that brings more holistic values to the world of business and finance. His first book, Beyond Success: Redefining the Meaning of Prosperity, was recently published by AMACOM, the publishing house of the American Management Association.
Over the past several years, Jeff has been featured in Money Magazine, CNN, Financial Advisor, The Star Ledger, New Jersey Business Journal, Affluent Magazine and News 12 New Jersey. In 2004, he was honored by Fortune Small Business Magazine as One of Our Nation’s Best Bosses. He also serves as chairman of the advisory board to the Autism Center of New Jersey Medical School, an organization that raises significant monies each year for autism research and support services.
What led to the creation of Beyond Success?
I started working in the financial field in 1996. I knew that I wanted to help people, and I also wanted to make money. Getting out of college there was no option to move back in with my parents, so I had to get out there and look for things, but I really didn’t make any money for a long time.
In 1996, I made about $22,000 a year. Five years later I had clawed and climbed my way up to about $26,000. And then I figured something out. I had an epiphany–or an enlightened moment, whatever you want to call it, where I realized I was going about things completely the wrong way. I realized that I was focused on what I wanted, but not on what I was willing to give in order to get what I wanted, and as long as I approached my business in this way, I would never succeed.
From my observations and experience as a financial advisor, it seems that many people are in the same rut that I was in. They know what they want to get, but no one along the way ever told them that they’d have to be willing to give something first.
Many, if not most of us have been taught to focus on getting the big dollars and the big job, whatever it is, but we rarely come to understand that what we get really has nothing to do with what we want to get. If you’re solely focused on what you want to get, chances are you’ll get nothing. But when you figure out what you want to give and what you want to be–you can then have whatever you want. I started Beyond Success to examine, question and hopefully redefine what success means to us as individuals and as a society.
The average person associates prosperity with wealth and luxury, which is getting tougher in today’s climate. What does your book offer this average person?
I’m now a successful financial advisor, so I often get invited to other companies to speak to their advisors. And I’m usually expected to tell them how they too can get more, but when I show up I say something quite different.
The question I’ll always ask is, “How many of you remember thinking that if you could make $100,000 a year, you’d have everything you thought you’d ever want and need?” I then ask them to go back 15 or 20 years, when they were just starting out, making $15,000 a year and thinking, “if I could just make that $100,000, I’d be happy, life would be smooth sailing and everything would be perfect.” More often than not, every single person in the room raises their hand and says they remember thinking that. My next question is “How many people feel today the way they thought they would feel when they got the $100,000?” It’s very rare that I look out and see someone with his or her hand raised.
I had a radio show for a number of years called Beyond Success: Redefining the Meaning of Prosperity. In doing research for the show, I’d talk to people all over the country who made millions of dollars a year, many of whom were also really miserable. But, somewhat to my surprise, there was one group of people I found that were happy and successful–and it had very little to do with how much money they made. These were the people who were doing what they truly loved to do.
I had a guy on the show who was a ski instructor for handicapped children. He got to ski all year round and made about $30,000 a year. He was by far the happiest person I’d ever met. And what I learned from him was that the only way to really generate long term happiness is to wake up every day looking forward to what it is you’re going to do.
If this is in fact true, then this means you have to have some idea of what you want to do with your life, because being is way more important than getting. I’m sure I won’t convince everyone reading this article that this is true. But I’m willing to bet that you’ll figure it out on your own when you keep getting and getting and getting and finally realize you’re miserable anyway–because it will never be enough.
The most critical thing for any human being is to know what they want to be in life. There is no other thing. You then don’t have to figure out how to be happy because happiness is an illusion. The people who are truly happy are those who are so focused on what they’re doing that they don’t have time to think about whether they’re happy or not. Every morning when they wake up, they think they have something to contribute to the world and if they don’t do it, they’re simply going to burst. So it’s critical that you figure out what you want to be.
You are well known for your holistic approach in financial and life planning industry, was there any major influences in your life that led to this approach?
In 1997, I was just a New Jersey insurance salesman, trying to support a wife and two kids on about $20,000 a year, falling months behind with the mortgage payments, scared and unsure of my future.
I hid my car because the finance company told me they were coming to repossess it. The debt collectors were calling every day, and my wife at the time was close to a nervous breakdown. I had credit card debt, mortgage debt, car loans. Things looked pretty bleak.
One day, I was getting out of my car and about to walk into a prospect’s house to try and sell a term life policy. I was way behind on my bills, and my mind was going on and on about how much I needed the sale. Desperation poured out of me as I caught my reflection in the car window. I stopped, looked hard at that reflection and said to myself, “Who would want to buy anything from you? Look at how desperate you look!”
I thought of the successful people in my office and realized that to some extent, they all had a confidence about themselves that I sorely lacked. And so I decided in that moment that I needed to drop my desperate, needy attitude and walk into this prospect’s house with the confidence of someone who didn’t want anything.
I took one last look at my reflection and saw that I had taken on an air of serenity, and that’s when I began to realize that I really didn’t need anything, that deep down there was nothing for me to get. I dropped my need to make a sale. I became still and quiet.
I soon began to approach more of my clients this way, putting all my attention on them, without any desire or expectation for myself personally. And to my amazement, my meetings really started to transform and my success as a financial advisor grew exponentially.
As an award winning financial adviser and a sought after keynote speaker at numerous financial and motivational functions, how is prosperity easily reached.
Although it sounds like a bit of a cliché, I was able to see firsthand as I was going through my own crisis around wealth and success that the more I gave to others; the more I received in return. I quickly began accomplishing more in the world and my income grew substantially. In addition to starting my own financial firm, I also became the chairman of the advisory board to The Autism Center of New Jersey Medical School, and started a fund- raiser that we now hold every year, which to date has raised over a million dollars for autism research.
From these experiences, I discovered at a deep level that the more I gave to others, the more complete and happy I felt. I literally started to go to client meetings with absolutely no regard for needing to make money or anything else. I would simply walk in, shut out the outside world for the hour or two that I was there and put 100 percent of my attention on my clients.
Unfortunately, too many of us spend our whole lives waiting to get something from the world so that we can show up as the person we always knew we could be. Deep in our hearts we think there’s something missing. But when we flip that mindset, we can discover that by becoming a giver rather than a taker, we can become agents for change in the world. In the end, it was only through giving to others that I was able to find the kind of happiness that I was really looking for. This is one of the main things I learned when I began to look for what might lie “beyond success.”
Adapted from Beyond Success: Redefining the Meaning of Prosperity – © 2009 Jeffrey L. Gitterman – All rights reserved – Published by AMACOM Books – A Division of the American Management Association – www.amacombooks.org.