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Walking Together: Reflection and Insights from My Heart to Yours

By: Scott Van Den Berg, CFP®, ChFC®, CEPA®, AIF®, CRPS®, CMFC®, AWMA®

Did you ever have one of those Sunday mornings where you got up early, had a cup of coffee, and enjoyed some rare quiet time to think and reflect?   This past weekend, it happened to me. I am 57 years old and have been a financial advisor for over 32 years. I have been fortunate to have great parents, a loving wife, wonderful kids and grandkids, good friends, and amazing colleagues and mentors. 

Then, I started to think about all my experiences and the many lessons I have learned from my actions and observations, as well as vicariously through the life experiences of those around me.  I felt compelled to write them down and share these reflections and insights that helped shape me into the person I am today, hoping it might inspire, spark thought, and help invite your own reflection. 

On Life:

  • Celebrate Small Wins: Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Don't wait to celebrate significant milestones. Appreciate the small victories and everyday moments of joy.
  • Embrace Change: Change is the only constant in life. Instead of fearing it, learn to adapt and see change as an opportunity for growth and new experiences.
  • Stay Curious: Never stop learning. Curiosity keeps your mind active and opens doors to new opportunities and experiences.
  • Small Acts, Big Impact: Acts of kindness, regardless of their size, have a profound impact on both the giver and the receiver, fostering a sense of connection and compassion. Even the smallest gesture can brighten someone's day and create a ripple effect of positivity. 
  • Express Gratitude: Practice gratitude daily and express appreciation to enhance your well-being. Integrate thankfulness into your daily routines and interactions for a more profound impact. 
  • Be The Change: You have the power to be the change you wish to see in the world. Your actions, no matter how small, can inspire others to follow suit, creating a ripple effect of positive change. So, lead by example, and watch as your actions inspire a collective effort towards a better world.
  • It’s Never Too Late: It's never too late to start something worthwhile, even if you didn't start it as early as you would have liked. As the Chinese proverb reads: "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now."

On Money:

  • Mind Your Pennies: While big investments are important, never underestimate the power of small savings. Over time, these can accumulate and make a significant difference.
  • Live Below Your Means: Just because you can afford something doesn't mean you should buy it. Living below your means helps ensure financial stability and peace of mind.
  • The Power of Compounding Interest: Compounding interest is like planting a money tree. Start early, and you’ll sit in the shade of your financial forest before you know it. Albert Einstein reportedly called compound interest the "eighth wonder of the world.”
  • Money Can't Buy Happiness: But as my grandfather always said, “It can help soothe the nerves.”
  • Invest in Yourself: Your best investment is in yourself. Education, skills, and personal growth pay the best dividends in the long run.

On Friendship:

  • Be a Good Listener: Sometimes, being a good friend means just listening. Offering a sympathetic ear can be more valuable than any advice.
  • Be Authentic: Authenticity attracts true friends. Be yourself, and you'll find people who appreciate you for who you are.
  • Mutual Effort: Friendships require effort from both sides. Reach out regularly to show you care and cherish friends who do the same for you.
  • Support and Uplift: Be the friend who encourages others to be their best selves. Support your friends' endeavors and be there for them in times of need.

On Work Ethic:

  • Passion Fuels Perseverance: Work doesn't feel like work when you love what you do. Find your passion, and let it drive your hard work and dedication.
  • Purpose and Pride in Work: When you understand how your work contributes to a larger goal, it becomes more meaningful and motivating. Take pride in whatever job you do, no matter how small. Quality work reflects well on you and opens doors for future opportunities.
  • Consistency Over Intensity: Show up every day and do your best. Consistent effort builds reliability and trust and can lead to better results than sporadic bursts of intense work. Develop daily habits that reinforce a strong work ethic. 
  • Lead by Example: Demonstrate a strong work ethic in your own life. Kids and colleagues are more likely to adopt good habits when they see them in action. Show that dedication, punctuality, and integrity matter in everything you do. Do what you say you will do, and let your actions demonstrate your value.
  • Hard Work Builds Character. Hard work is important in building strong moral character and a sense of personal achievement. 
  • Do it Right the First Time: Efficiency and precision are paramount. Doing a job well from the start saves time and resources in the long run. As famed UCLA basketball coach John Wooden used to say, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”
  • Teamwork Makes the Dream Work: Collaboration and working well with others are crucial for achieving common goals.
  • Respect and Learn From Your Elders: Respect for those with more experience. Learning from the wisdom of others and showing respect is essential in both personal and professional life.
  • Mentor and Teach: Share your knowledge and skills with others. Mentoring can empower others to achieve their goals and continue the cycle of positive change.

On Never Giving Up:

  • Adapt and Overcome: Flexibility is essential. Adapt your approach rather than give up when things don't go as planned. Every challenge is an opportunity in disguise. As the US Marine Corps says, “Adapt, Overcome, Improvise.”
  • Resilience is Key: Life will throw curveballs. The ability to bounce back from setbacks will ultimately lead to success. Keep pushing forward, no matter the obstacles.
  • Failure is a Stepping Stone: Every failure teaches a lesson. Use these lessons as stepping stones to reach your goals rather than seeing them as roadblocks.

On Generosity and Kindness:

  • Start Small: You don't need to be wealthy to make a difference. Small acts of kindness can significantly impact someone's life, whether through time or money.
  • Acts of Kindness: Acts of kindness resonate far beyond the moment; give with joy and no strings attached. Remember, kindness without expectation of return is the purest form of generosity. 
  • Giving is Rewarding: The joy of giving often surpasses the joy of receiving. Helping others benefits them and enriches your life with a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Give freely, knowing that your kindness is its own reward.
  • Charity’s Profound Reach: Charity begins at home but doesn't have to end there. Spread your generosity far and wide, and you’ll see its profound effects everywhere.
  • Teach Generosity: Lead by example. Show others the joy of giving through your actions or involving them in charitable activities.
  • Tikkun Olam: This powerful Hebrew phrase is one of my favorites. It means “repairing the world" or "perfecting the world." In other words, let's make and leave this world a better place. 

On Motivating Kids:

  • Set Goals: Help your kids set achievable goals. Break them down into smaller tasks to make progress feel manageable and rewarding, thus encouraging continued effort and commitment. 
  • Incentivize Effort: Offer rewards for hard work and persistence, not just results. This teaches the value of effort and resilience and builds confidence and motivation.
  • Chores and Responsibilities: Assign regular chores to teach responsibility and the value of contributing to the household. Make it clear that everyone’s effort is important.
  • Encourage Independence: Allow kids to solve problems on their own. Encourage them to take initiative and learn from their mistakes.

On Health:

  • Health is True Wealth: Your financial assets are valuable, but good health is priceless. It forms the foundation upon which you can truly enjoy your wealth. Without robust health, financial wealth loses its significance. 
  • Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Remember, your wealth's true purpose is to enhance your life and the lives of those you care about. Prioritizing health ensures that your financial achievements translate into meaningful and fulfilling experiences. 
  • Quality of Life: Imagine having all the money in the world but being unable to fully enjoy life's pleasures due to health issues. It’s not just about living longer; optimal health helps to ensure pain-free experiences and a higher quality of life.
  • Long-Term Financial Planning: Incorporating health into your financial plan is crucial. Allocating resources for wellness, insurance, and preventive care helps safeguard your financial stability against unforeseen health expenses. 

I hope these reflections and insights, drawn from my personal experiences and the wisdom gleaned through observation, have struck a chord with you. Here's to a life filled with meaningful experiences, cherished relationships, and a legacy of love, growth, and positive impact.

Scott S. Van Den Berg

Scott Van Den Berg, CFP®, ChFC®, CEPA®, AIF®, CRPS®, CMFC®, AWMA®