It was the kind of problem I had solved routinely in the past.
A couple came into my office seeking advice on whether to sell or keep their lake house (I’ve altered a few of the facts in order to honor the privacy of the family involved). This is the sort of logical, mathematical problem that financial advisors are trained to analyze. Once I understood the reason for the couple’s visit, my mind immediately went into solution-mode. What’s the assumed rate of return? What’s inflation going to be? What are the tax consequences? What’s the discounted present value of future returns from alternative investments? And so on, and so on…
But there was something about this situation that was different from the past. Looking back, I believe that difference was a shift in my perspective brought on by the work and mindset we’ve been cultivating at the Certior Group.
As I began the meeting, instead of telling the couple what my analysis was, I asked them to tell me about the house. At first they just described it: how big it is, how old it is, its features. It was the sort of description you might find on Zillow.com or some other real estate website. Then I asked them what the house meant to them. That did it. They started talking about the memories they had of family gatherings; of sharing the house with friends; and letting others use the house when they weren’t there. They talked about the joyous occasions they had had. On and on they went…and at the end, they looked at each other and said almost simultaneously, “We can’t sell the house. It means too much to us, to everyone.”
Researchers who study intelligence call this kind of thinking crystallized intelligence; the ability to size up what’s relevant in the present, scan the past for clues and possible parallels, and imagine future scenarios playing out. This skill contrasts with what the same researchers call fluid intelligence – what we commonly view as the traits of “smart” people – the ability to think quickly, logically, and remember large amounts of information and data. Crystallized intelligence is the mark of wisdom. It was wisdom, not logic, that swayed this couple’s decision. And it’s wisdom that we can continue to cultivate – especially during these times.
Given the ongoing pandemic, the aftermath of our recent elections continuing to dominate the media and social media and the volatile economy – we will be called upon to make important decisions under ambiguous, uncertain conditions. And with the upcoming holidays, these are stressful times for us all. Stress, anxiety, and perhaps fear or anger, are understandable reactions to the current circumstances. But these reactions make decision making that much more difficult. In my experience and as I’ve written before in this blog, we have the opportunity to face these circumstances by beginning in Gratitude. Gratitude for the everyday goodness that’s still in our lives. Gratitude, and cultivating Wisdom can serve us well in the days ahead.