Intro: 00:00 This episode was recorded live at United, the 2019 AFA Conference in Adelaide. The Association of Financial Advisors is the association of choice for financial advice professionals, and empowers them to transform the lives of Australians through quality financial advice. For more information, check out afa.asn.au.
Hello and welcome to the Goals Based Advice Podcast, where I have conversations with pioneers of the new world of financial advice. I’m your host, Fraser Jack, I want to thank you so much for tuning in today. As you might have realized, I’m live from the Association of Financial Advisors Conference in the beautiful city of Adelaide and we are... It’s day one. It’s day one, it’s early and they’ve just finished a first timer event and we’re getting ready to kick off with the main program. I’m lucky enough to be joined by Vanessa Bennett who ran the session. Hello, welcome to the show.
Vanessa Bennett: 00:53 Thanks Fraser, hi. Good to be here.
Fraser Jack: 00:54 Do you want to give us a quick overview of yourself and introduce what you’re doing?
Vanessa Bennett: 00:58 Sure. Yeah, so we are next evolution performance, and we’re a performance mastery coaching business. So we help people to really master all forms of their performance and I think it’s really important with financial planners at the moment because it’s one thing to get your business and systems processes right. Getting the humans absolutely firing all cylinders used to be a nice to have and now it’s essential for survival. So we need to make sure that we’ve got people absolutely sparking on all floors to make sure that they can achieve more with less.
Fraser Jack: 01:29 Yeah, it’s certainly been a theme that’s been running through this morning, but also a lot of stuff that lately that how do we get ourselves working to be our best so that we can really focus on in all of our clients after that?
Vanessa Bennett: 01:40 Absolutely, yeah. And if we can look after ourselves, it’s very hard to look at other people. So we need to make sure that people can do that. So we have a three pronged approach. We call it physical, mental neurals. So physical is things like fitness, nutrition, sleep, alcohol, obviously that’s important. We need to make sure that people look after the neural side of things, and that is how do you structure your days, weeks, months and years for performance with less effort. So we’ve only got about six hours a day maximum, average is about four, but I’ll give people the benefit of the doubt, you can trade it to six. About six hours of full cognitive load each day. So you’re trying to spend more of that then you’re actually on the pots of burnout. So we help people to understand how to manage their cognitive energy throughout that day so they can still work longer, but they need to make sure they do it in a way that saves what we call the energy credits. And then the mental side of things is massive as well.
Fraser Jack: 02:35 So if you’re spending more than that than the rest is on credit I take it?
Vanessa Bennett: 02:39 Absolutely I mean there’s no overdraft facility with energy credits. And the final piece in the puzzle is the mental piece and that’s really the mindset for high performance. So obviously there’s a whole lot of issues going around with mental health problems at the moment and things like that. I’m currently doing my masters in the psychology and neuroscience of mental health. So we’re really focusing on this idea of mental fitness. So we now know that you can train your body physically to avoid physical illness. Well now, thanks to this lovely intersection of new research on psychology and neuroscience, we now know that we can train our brains mentally to avoid mental ill health. And the beautiful byproduct is that you’ll be far more successful and far more open to opportunities. Our brains are wired for defense, they’re not really wired to do anything amazing. So we want to help people really master their mindset and their mental fitness to make sure that they’re giving their energy in the right way.
Fraser Jack: 03:39 Yeah, fantastic. Now tell us about your journey. How did you weave your way through life to doing this?
Vanessa Bennett: 03:44 Yeah, I know it’s kind of a weird one. People think it’s completely different, but it’s not. I used to work in financial services. I was the head of a sales team for a global funds management business. So it seems like it’s a little bit different, but I was the head of that while the global financial crisis was on. So I was pretty much managing a team for high performance at that time and a lot of these things that I was doing with the team worked. And there was really no one in that space doing what I needed. There was a lot of people coaching sales skills and all of that kind of thing, but there was no one really coaching what I wanted to coach my team on so I started doing a lot of that. And I also work in the fitness industry part time, so we get a lot of information around coaching and psychology before the corporates get it.
So I was incorporating that into my full time job rather than my play job of taking classes, well that too, but it had this follow on effect and so I just became really, really interested in this space. People that I saw were burning out unnecessarily, people are having mental health problems unnecessarily and people just haven’t been taught how to avoid these kinds of things and how to really prosper. So I just thought there was a need for that and really decided to make a move across to that. And I’d obviously been studying in this kind of area previously and I’ve just continued that now. So really taking it to the nth degree with this psychology and neuroscience and mental health masters.
Fraser Jack: 05:07 Yeah I’m really putting a connection together with your sales team at that time, going through the GFC and the crisis and then working out how their mental state, their mindset at that time, is very similar to advisor mindsets now with regards to all the changes and the things that are going on. So are you saying that?
Vanessa Bennett: 05:26 Yeah, so true. And it’s really the interesting with this idea of mental fitness we have to train and it’s how you wouldn’t think about running a marathon without training for it. And yet people say, “Oh, resilience is something that you build when you have a bad experience.” No, that’s the event. That’s what you need to train for. And so what we’re finding now is that advisors are finding themselves in this marathon at about K26 they’re hitting a wall and it was a marathon that they hadn’t trained for and they never wanted to run in the first place. So it’s tricky. And so what we want to do is obviously, you know, the best time to start doing this kind of thing would have been five to 10 years ago. The second best time is now. So if we can help people deal with getting through this change and building the mental fitness on the fly as we go, but then also that will put them in good stead for next time.
And it’s the same thing in financial services during the global financial crisis, it was, “Hang on, we’ve still got these massive targets, how do we do this?” And it was hard. And so I think one of the key things to really take away from is understanding your belief systems. So we do a lot of work helping people build neural pathways that are supporting their goals rather than detracting from their goals. And unfortunately because our brain’s wired for defense, if you don’t understand how to take conscious, what we call attentional control, then the attentional default is that negative, unhelpful neural pathways will be formed. And as we get older, they just get stronger.
Fraser Jack: 06:51 Is that the focusing on what you want, not focusing on what you don’t want.
Vanessa Bennett: 06:54 Yeah, exactly. That’s right. So it’s around, if you’ve got a goal to have a successful business through these changes, but your belief is it’s impossible to do, that’s in congruent. And so goals and beliefs need to be aligned. You can change one or the other, but they need to match. So what we’re helping advisors with at the moment is to realize that there is so many reasons why they can do this, there’s other practices that are already doing this. So if anything, we’re helping them to get that belief that it can be done. And just because they don’t necessarily know how to do it right this very second, we want to make sure that people understand that there is help available and that we can get them there.
Fraser Jack: 07:31 Yeah, I like the word help. So because I’m thinking also there’s a lot of advisors that that are depressed. You know, low, not feeling great about themselves. How do you then turn that in, because you just, you mentioned the idea that we need to train, we need to take time to train. How do we work that time? Because at the moment time is not something that advisors have got a lot of.
Vanessa Bennett: 07:54 Yeah, exactly. That’s a really great question Fraser. And so the whole idea is with mental fitness it’s the same as physical fitness. It’s dependent on genetics, it’s dependent on your circumstances, your upbringing, your environment, all of these kinds of things. And so just like if you were going to get two people to train for a marathon, one’s a couch potato, one can always run 10Ks, it’s a different training program, but we can still get you there. So what we find is when people are already suffering a lot of these mental health issues at the moment, or at least a fair way down that spectrum, you don’t go from mental health one day to mental ill health the next, there is a spectrum.
And so people who are down the further end of that spectrum towards mental health issues or suffering from those, we get them started with really, really simple exercises. Okay, so it could be something as simple as give us three things that went really well today. And the good thing is is that might only take 30 seconds, but if that’s 30 seconds that you’re not building unhelpful neural pathways, that’s a good start. So we just start with really simple things. You can’t tell someone who’s depressed, “Oh, let’s just reframe everything.” No, it doesn’t work that way. Someone who’s got good mental fitness can go to those kinds of more difficult exercises. But people who are already having problems with their mental health, they’ve got to start with really simple ones.
And one that we really love that we use, we call it #crushinglife, and the whole idea around that is it doesn’t matter how little or dumb or silly the thing is that happens to you, that’s awesome. Make it massive. So if you’re going to great car park, #crushinglife. Mind you, in Sydney, that is a big deal, but that’s okay. But you could get the last sandwich that you want at lunch, #crushinglife. You just made it onto the train, #crushinglife, make it massive. And that’s a really great tool that we use in a lot of people who are finding it hard to instigate a lot of these other mental fitness tools.
Fraser Jack: 09:50 Yeah, I like the idea of celebrating the small wins and just feeling good about it. Now you mentioned the spectrum, now I love this conversation around mental health, mental illness spectrum. Which means we’re all on it, which is great. And then now all of it is is about moving ourselves along that spectrum rather than comparing to anybody else.
Vanessa Bennett: 10:06 Yeah, that’s right. So mental health is what we all want. That is the pinnacle of what we want to have. So mental health is great. So according to the world health organization, mental health is where you are contributing productively to society, you can cope with the normal stresses of life, all of these kinds of things. All that’s fantastic. Mental ill health is obviously the opposite end of the spectrum, that is where you have been clinically diagnosed with some form of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, a panic disorder, all of these kinds of things. And there are certain characteristics that you need to have for a certain period of time by... There’s one called the international classification of diseases, there’s another one that’s over... One’s UK, one’s US, but that’s when you’ve been diagnosed. But the problem is it’s a journey.
And so you can be on that spectrum and not necessarily diagnosed with a problem, but if you don’t know how to improve your mental fitness and if you don’t know how to really proactively and consciously control your thoughts so that they are serving you, that’s unfortunately the destination. And about 50% of people will suffer a mental health problem and it’s higher in financial services. So if you think about that many people are suffering a problem who have been diagnosed or will be diagnosed. And then think about all the others on the spectrum, there’s actually a very only a handful of people that can probably honestly say they have great mental health.
So if this is so prevalent and this is such an issue, we need to learn this. We now know that you can like do things to avoid cancer and cardiovascular disease. Now we can’t do everything, but there’s a lot of things we can do to avoid that. So if we know that that’s inevitable in some way, shape or form, surely want to do something to avoid that. Well, unfortunately these days with mental health problems, they’re almost inevitable with all the stresses in today’s society, let alone what’s been happening in financial services, that if people don’t consciously learn how to deal with those, it’s almost horrible to say, but it’s almost inevitable.
Fraser Jack: 12:10 Yeah, and I will quickly say while we’re talking about this that if you are feeling that you need to talk to somebody, please reach out to somebody like IFA Care and institutions, organizations like that, that can help you get through. Now tell me, we’re at the conference, you’ve just led a presentation. Tell us about the presentation that was delivered and how did it go?
Vanessa Bennett: 12:29 Yeah, so this is a fun one. We do... I’ve got a few here, but we do, the first one that we start with is the first timer session and it’s a great way... I love the way the AFA do this because it really recognizes the idea of it not everyone loves the idea of walking into a room where they don’t know anyone. And I’ll be honest, I’m one of those people. I’m a little shy, a little nervous sometimes. So I think it’s really great to have an environment where we can make it very interactive and we can encourage people who are quite new to come along and get to know some other people so that there are some other familiar faces and just make them feel really comfortable.
Fraser Jack: 13:02 Yeah, absolutely. You walk into an event like this now, I’ve been to this conference for many years, so I walk in, I see people that I know. But yeah, absolutely. The first time you walk in, you don’t know anybody and you see everybody else shaking hands and knowing each other and it can be very daunting.
Vanessa Bennett: 13:17 It’s really daunting and we want people to be in the right mindset too. So if you’re a bit unsure about whether it’s going to be a good conference, well then it may or may not be a good conference. But we want to get people in the right mindset that it’s going to be a great conference and it’s a great time to be in financial planning. It’s a great conference and let’s really be optimistic and have a great mindset to start the conference.
Fraser Jack: 13:37 So mindset was the main takeaway from your presentation, that you think?
Vanessa Bennett: 13:39 Correct. Yeah, mindset is really pretty much everything to be honest. It’s really great when you can structure your days well and look after yourself physically and things like that. But with all the great research that’s coming out that we’re involved with, this mindset piece is amazing. And so that’s really the power of success and obviously avoiding mental health problems is a lovely byproduct of that as well.
Fraser Jack: 14:04 Yeah, very good. Now, performance mastery coaching, how can people get hold of you if they need to master their performance?
Vanessa Bennett: 14:11 Yes, absolutely. Well we are more than happy to have a 30 minute, no obligation chat with anybody. So if this is something that you might even be just a little bit vaguely interested in, go to our website. It’s nextevolutionperformance.com and then go on to meet the team and then you’ll see us all there. I’m more than happy for people to contact me directly and we can book in a time to have a chat.
We also run open workshops which people can attend. We get a lot of financial planners coming those, especially if they’re small businesses and they don’t mind being in with other businesses. And we run them out of Sydney three times a year. They go for a day, it’s obviously not all of what we do, but it’s often just enough to get them started and it’s a really great price point for people to come into that as well. So if anyone has any interest in just discussing what that might be and whether it’s relevant for people or whether it’s workshops in their teams or whether it’s just one to one coaching. So we do all of that, so we just welcome a chat. So make contact with us via the website and I would love to hear from you.
Fraser Jack: 15:18 Fantastic. So you work with mostly practices, not just individuals that how...
Vanessa Bennett: 15:23 Yeah, so we work with a lot of people. Obviously depending on the coach, and we’ve got different backgrounds, and so for me personally, I do a lot of work for with financial advisors. I do a lot of work with dealer groups, fund managers, naturally coming from a sales background as well, there’s a lot of sales teams that I work with. We’ve got people... quite a lot of lawyers as well, as you can imagine, mental health is a bit of an issue at the moment. But we love working with practices. So for groups of teams. So we do one to one coaching for leaders or maybe a practice manager and we do workshops for everyone because everyone deserves to have access to this. So if we could, we just want to spread the word as far and wide as we can.
And it’s not even just senior people and that’s why we’ve opened up some of the workshops as well. You know, we want every single person to have access because when you’re dealing with trying to change neural wiring when you’re 50 years old, if we could’ve changed it while you were 25 that would have been a lot easier. So anyone who’s vaguely interested in being able to perform at their best, we’re really interested to have a chat with them and to see if we can point them in the right direction.
Fraser Jack: 16:29 Yeah, this reminds me of the group exercise class versus the individual, right? You know you’ve got the whole team involved in a group activity or group exercise and everybody then, you can talk about it afterwards and you can help each other out with it.
Vanessa Bennett: 16:41 It’s so true. When we help people have a language, people just use the language and they keep using it and it becomes really easy to implement. And actually one of the, probably, the biggest compliments that we get from our one-to-one programs is, “I didn’t feel like I was on a program.” And for our workshops and things that we do with teams, one of the biggest components is that it was really easy to implement this literally the second they left. So it’s not like a lot of the things where it’s like, “Oh that’s great in theory, but how am I actually going to put that into practice?” We develop their tools, we develop their action plans so that they will literally walk out going, “Right, I’m going to do this.” And make a change.
And you know, we have people who might’ve only seen us speak for 45 minutes at one point in time, three years later came back and go, “Oh my God, that was amazing. That changed my life. I did A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and amazing.” So that’s, that’s a good result. We want the implementation. No one needs a neuroscience lesson just for the sake of it. We need people to know how to deal with that and to do things that are going to make a change.
Fraser Jack: 17:41 Yes, I think we can all agree that if you don’t put anything in place, nothing’s going to work.
Vanessa Bennett: 17:45 That’s a pretty good way of summing it up, Fraser, absolutely.
Fraser Jack: 17:49 Well, thank you so much for chatting to us today. As you can hear with the music in the background, these sessions are about to start. So we’ll wrap it there, but thanks Vanessa for coming on the show.
Vanessa Bennett: 17:56 That’s a pleasure. Thanks very much for having me. Have a great conference.
Fraser Jack: 17:59 Thank you.
Disclaimer: This document is a transcription obtained through a third party. There is no claim to accuracy on the content provided in this document, and divergence from the audio file are to be expected. As a transcription, this is not a legal document in itself, and should not be considered binding to advice intelligence, but merely a convenience for reference.