Skip to main content

Firm Management

Move Beyond Wishful Thinking

Expand your thinking, move past the easy answer, and go on a journey to determine the problem at hand. If you can learn those skills, it will set you on the path for true success, make you a better advisor, and if you ever get the chance to make a ...


Imagine for a moment that you had the power to be granted one wish.  This power could come from a genie or a magic wand, really the source of the wish doesn’t matter. What matters, is what would you use said wish for, and, more importantly, would said wish actually benefit you or just like all those stories and movies, would your wishes lead you down the wrong path. 

We have all thought to ourselves while watching that movie about the genie that we wish we had the power to make a wish and get whatever we want.  Be it wealth, fame, fortune, what have you, the impulse is human nature. 

So, let’s pretend for a moment that you had the magical power of one wish.  Right now, as you read this article, you could grant yourself one wish, with the only caveat being that it is related to your job.  If this were true, what would you wish for, what are you thinking right now as you read this article? 

Are you wishing for money, do you want more employees, more customers, a bigger office, no longer having to do annual CPE? No matter your wish, we are all thinking of something.  Making the wish is the easy part; the hard part is making the right wish.

Failed Wishes

Stories often tell an important tale about the human condition, and, in the case of wishes, they show the failure of humans to make impactful wishes that really make a difference in their lives.  How many stories/movies/books have a premise that focuses on the protagonist getting the ability to make wishes, making those wishes, and then regretting the result?

When we really think about it, your wish you were just thinking about most likely falls into that category.  It was the first thing that came to mind and filled an immediate need.  Perhaps you wished for another employee who is just like you.  As you have felt for a long time that if you just had another one of you, you would be so much more successful.

Sadly, research of organizations has shown us that having a team of people with the exact same mind set and skills is never beneficial.  Just like the ill-advised wish, it appears great at first to have everyone think and act the same, but you would quickly realize that your skills, behavior, and decision making are far too narrow.  You are never able to do things differently or consider a different plan or option.  Your group think is a mind of one, doomed to repeat the same bad decisions. 

Similarly, many people would wish for more money, because who wouldn’t want more money?  Sadly, research by Dan Gilbert, psychology professor at Harvard University, has shown that the payoff of making more than $90,000 is negligible when it comes to happiness.  That is, human beings overestimate how much pleasure and happiness they will get with having more money.

We have all seen this movie play out before. The real key is understanding what is the right wish you should be making and that starts with the right question.

The Right Question

The key to making the right wish or in the real world, taking the right action, is about understanding the right question to ask.  You see it isn’t as simple as just what would you wish for.  That is far too broad and open ended, which leads to the failed wishes.  Solving any problem involves asking multiple questions and dare we say some actual thought. 

Focusing on one magic wish to fix everything avoids any thought about understanding the problem, the issues at hand and more.  A great way to think about why this won’t work is why we teach people on our team how to solve problems vs. just always asking for the answer.

Only through understanding can we ever achieve true knowledge and without said knowledge, we can never answer, let alone ask, the right questions.  We lack the key foundation to build from.

The Right Wish

You first need to ask the right questions and then actually put in the hard work of solving the problem which is a journey and not just a destination.  One of the aspects that made Steve Jobs brilliant was his ability to ask the right questions and then think about the impact of those questions and impacts in the micro and macro level.  He didn’t just make simple minded random decisions without thought.  He would famously analyze situations, current trends, future trends, supply chain issues, technology trends, customer behavior, and more to make the smallest of decisions.  That ability provided him with the key foundation and knowledge so when it came time to make a decision, he had the knowledge he needed to know the path to take.

Finding Solutions Not Magic

Think about what you wished about before as you were reading this article.  Write down what that wish was and now think about why you made that wish.  Challenge yourself to look past that easy wish you came up with.  Instead focus on asking the right questions to really understand the issues you are faced with.  Abraham Maslow famously said, “If your only tool is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail.” 

Expand your thinking, move past the easy answer, and go on a journey to determine the problem at hand.  If you can learn those skills, it will set you on the path for true success, make you a better advisor, and if you ever get the chance to make a wish, it won’t be wasted. 

See inside June 2022

Creating Digital Experiences is the Future of Remote Work

Shared experiences are a great way to help your team members feel connected. Even if your entire team is working remotely, you can still create digital experiences that engage people wherever they are. When you do that, you’ll have a cohesive team that...