Lesson #6 – Ignore the bling. No really, ignore the bling.
As a culture, we are naturally drawn into things that shine and pop. I think this is best proven by how quickly bad news travels or how people are drawn to the scene of an accident. Thus, the lure of “fast” branding is just that…a lure. (Most fish might tell you to stay away from lures as their famous last words.) Many of the stories of fraud perpetrated upon athletes have had a common theme …the very provocative lure. Having been in the financial markets for nearly half of my life, I realize there are no guarantees. If something sounds too good to be true, generally speaking, it is. However, as an expert (not by cognitive aptitude but by Malcolm Gladwell’s concept of 10,000 hours) I know better. Unfortunately, without the proper instruction and guidance, novices can be exploited like has been the case many times before. So what is my advice here? Be patient and realize everything that glitters is not gold. Your brand (and consequently, your wealth) will take time to build. It cannot and will not happen overnight. Usually any thing (or anyone) that promises you a quick return or profit is likely a wolf in sheep’s clothing. You should run far, far away. In speaking with Chase Carlson, a Florida attorney that has represented over a dozen of athletes in fraud cases, he gave some common tell-tale signs for athletes to avoid. “A lot of these deals [that blow up] are private deals”. (Private deals are not registered with a centralized exchange or clearinghouse and therefore are more risky). He also mentioned the type of individuals to avoid. “A lot of these guys [that defraud the players] are living very large, driving very expensive cars, wearing very expensive jewelry”. You may want to read an earlier post I wrote if your financial advisor is a bigger celebrity than you are.
Lesson #7 – Listen for perspective, only implement wisdom.
Finally, while I personally may allow for a lot of different perspectives to be voiced, I only implement what amounts to wise counsel. How do I tell the difference between perspective and wisdom? Experience–and not just my own either. For years, I have sought mentors much older to provide me with invaluable nuggets of wisdom. What if you don’t have this type of access to wisdom? My advice is that you find it. Seek it out. Having a superb brand is not for the lazy or faint of heart. Particularly, crucial to protecting your brand will be what you allow into your psyche from friends, family and other associations. Make all those relationships pass a “mental” filter. Some may call it common sense. Unfortunately, common sense is not all that common anymore. Only listening to the input of your peers can be a recipe that cooks up a “one-sided” perspective. In a recent conversation with four-time Olympian Lauryn Williams, she mentioned that “youth and inexperience” as key reasons that athletes don’t consider the years after they retire. Lauryn, who is now reciprocating some of her life lessons as a financial advisor to current and future Olympians, understands the challenges young athletes face. When I asked her why younger athletes were not implementing better financial strategies, like those of Kobe’s and LeBron’s mentioned earlier, she responded that, not only is there “limited exposure to [that type of] advice to help younger athletes”, but “younger athletes often don’t have the knowledge or education that helps them apply the advice [that] is given”. Most successful professionals will agree that applying the hunger and drive that got you to where you are won’t necessarily take your brand to where you want it to go. This is why a healthy dose of wise perspective is like a dietary supplement that should be taken daily.
“One way to define wisdom is the ability to see, into the future, the consequences of your choices in the present. That ability can give you a completely different perspective on what the future might look like.” -Andy Andrews
So let’s recap the seven lessons:
Recognize you are a brand;
Use good associations to create brand value;
Start planning your transition early;
Practice personal responsibility;
Replace negativity with positivity;
Ignore the shine
Listen to different perspectives, but only accept wisdom;
So what will you do with what you know? Athlete or not, implementation of these principles will help you build and preserve your brand.
(Special thanks to Lauryn Williams, Marques Ogden and Chase Carlson for their contributions to this mosaic of thought.)