How to Identify and Overcome the Limits to Your Success

Bob Veres

Confronted by a client who balks at a high fee or by a team member whose performance is imperfect, many advisors react by assuming that the problem is their own. One’s fees are lowered and the employee’s job description is remade. But this mindset exposes a lack of self-awareness, according to Stephanie Bogan. Instead, she says that by recognizing your inherent predispositions you can be on a “limitless” path to success.

For the past 20 years, Bogan has been one of the leading practice management minds in the financial services world, which makes her more-than-two-year hiatus from the profession perplexing to outsiders. Following a successful career as an independent consultant, Bogan built the profession’s first online, interactive practice management tool and sold her firm, Quantuvis Consulting, to the Genworth organization, taking a senior management role with the company. She later served as a key practice management executive at United Capital.

Then, suddenly, an important consultant and thought leader disappeared to a beach in Costa Rica.

The past two years have not been wasted, however. “It wasn’t about running away from something; I felt like I was moving toward something,” Bogan says, “but at first I didn’t know what it was. All I knew was that it was hard to walk away, because I had really wrapped a huge part of my identity into who I was and what I’d accomplished. In hindsight, business was a way to convince myself that I was significant. I was successful, I had sold my company, and I had taken on a huge new opportunity. By all accounts, I had checked all the boxes. Then I learned that the typical definition of success doesn’t solve for what really matters.

“And then,” she said, “I started to realize that I was grappling, personally, with the issue for business owners and financial planners. There’s a wholeness that I think is lacking in the work lives of advisory firm owners, where it becomes a grind. People who once loved what they were doing and approached their work with passion too often end up feeling like they have to get up every day and push the cart up the hill. Even on days where they start with optimism, by 11 AM it seems to have left the building as the frustrating reality of their work life takes over. They’re driven by obligations, expectations and profit, no longer by purpose. They’re carrying around a lot of unexamined assumptions that drive them in ways they’re generally unaware of. I certainly was.

“And,” she says, “their firms are not serving them because they aren’t serving their firms, and they don’t know why. What I’ve realized over the past two years is that you lead from within.”

The obstacles within

Bogan’s insight can be described in two ways. The first is that all of us are, in some way, wounded and dysfunctional, and our success – like Bogan realized that hers was – becomes a form of therapy, an effort to heal those internal pain points.

“One of the coaches I worked with put it perfectly when he said: we work from our wounds,” says Bogan. “If you don’t wake up feeling validated, then you go out into the world seeking acceptance and validation. Success is a very convincing disguise, particularly to the person wearing it. Just because you don’t end up in a crack house doesn’t mean you’re a whole-hearted person or leader. You can look very normal, even wildly successful, as a business owner or executive and yet still have issues that impact you and hold you back from being happy and achieving all that is possible.”

The second part of the insight, no less important, is that many of the most important and intractable obstacles that business owners face are self-created. “Success is so often defined by what is happening inside of us, not by the externals,” says Bogan. “The biggest challenges are rooted in the belief systems and internal biases that the advisor unconsciously brings to his or her business, rather than (as most of us believe) the challenges that come at us from the external environment.”

Every advisor’s biggest challenges can be overcome only if the advisor can start consciously addressing the hidden assumptions, self-limiting beliefs, misconceptions and subconscious cries for acceptance that all of us acquire in our journey through life.

For Bogan, this insight had been there all along. “When I was doing practice management consulting, it was a huge help to the firms I was working with; you could see the difference,” Bogan explains. “But as I look back on it, the place where I was always most effective at effecting change was in these conversations that went beyond consulting and advice to explore the mindset of the owner. My advice worked best when I was getting people off-balance, when I was able to help them look at their situations through a different lens.”

She now believes that these conversations are the key for advisors to build the businesses they originally envisioned. “If you’re not whole in who and how you are, what you’re bringing, what purpose you have, and how you bring it to your business and to your clients, then you’re building on a shaky foundation,” Bogan explains. “The challenges that you carry around inevitably show up in your business. So my premise is: if you aren’t satisfied with your business, don’t look out there, look within.”

“If you’re bringing dysfunction to the business, the business, as a reflection of those dysfunctions, will be dysfunctional,” Bogan continues. “What I want for business owners is to show them how to become limitless.”

Overcoming limitations

But how can people with ingrained flaws become limitless? Isn’t that an impossible idea?

“Here is what I absolutely know to be true, based on my own personal experience and the work I’ve done over the last 20 years,” says Bogan: “anything is possible; some things are just harder than others. In my experience, your goals and desires can absolutely become reality if you’re willing to do the work. It’s just that the work isn’t what most people think it is.”

In fact, if you look around you, it seems like a lot of scientists, gurus, coaches and spiritual advisors are approaching the same insight from different directions.

“There are an infinite number of resources about personal performance” says Bogan. “Some people define it in terms of religion and spirituality, or meditation, or neurophysiology and optimizing brain functioning. Irrespective of your beliefs or approach, the commonality is that we can change and grow, and we can create a life (and business) that we love. After two years of exploring these subjects, it’s clear to me that there’s something here worth talking about, worth focusing on more purposefully. We are the creators of our reality, whether we are satisfied with it or not. I’ve experienced this in my own life in some very compelling, often painful, ways. Benefiting from this knowledge requires being open to the lessons, understanding how we work beyond the surface, and being willing to approach yourself and your work in a different way.”

Bogan notes that if you’re wondering if this applies to you, simply keep in mind that ‘feedback is your friend’. If you’re not really happy, if you’re dissatisfied with your business, your clients, your work relationships, your marriage, your bank account, your physique (or anything else) in ways that leave you frustrated, tense or wanting – that is valuable feedback, your own way of letting yourself know that things aren’t in alignment.

The real question Bogan wants to ask us is why we tolerate anything less than our limitless potential. “Either you’re living and working in ways that help you, enable you to grow and give you joy…or you’re not,” she says. The real question is whether we’re ready to do something about this condition.