Journalist and author Leigh Sales refrained from discounting the adversity of advisers when comparing them to some of the people she met researching her latest book, Any Ordinary Day.

Delivering a keynote at the Professional Planner Best Practice Forum in Sydney, Sales described the process of researching the book, which focuses on how people deal with major life trauma and hardship.

“I’ve seen human beings face every kind of challenge that life can throw at them and I’ve seen all the different ways people respond to them,” Sales said.

After detailing her own darkest days, when both her children were seriously ill, Sales addressed the adversity facing advisers.

“All of you are in an industry that is going through a lot of turmoil and change, and you might be tempted to think that I think… losing your business is nothing compared to the prospect of losing two children,” Sales said. “But if you’re at the centre of that it’s deeply, deeply traumatic and things like that go to the very core of who you are.”

Sales explained that when people face ‘game changing’ events the majority of them are able to adapt to their ‘new normal’. How quickly they adapt, however, depends on three things; “the nature of the event, our genetics, and our internal beliefs about how the world works, which are formed by our experience.” She noted that our biological traits, or what we inherit from our parents, account for about 40 to 50 per cent of how we adapt to adversity.

The personality traits associated with better recovery from trauma – such as an adviser losing their business – include optimism, extraversion and “a healthy ego”.

Optimists, for example, are more likely to be able to make meaning out of an awful event by concentrating on the good that might be able to come from it, Sales said.

Her experience has taught Sales that what people can get through is “truly amazing”. Walking through a children’s hospital ward or hosting a current affairs show makes you realise there is always someone else going through a worse time, she reckons.

“You might have had tough times but if the people I’ve met can adapt to their new normal you can adapt to a new normal too.”

Tahn Sharpe is a Sydney-based financial services journalist with a background in financial planning. He writes on advice, superannuation, investment, banking and insurance issues, is a certified SMSF Adviser and holds an Advanced Diploma of Financial Planning.
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