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Math versus Drama

2020 has been a year of change and uncertainty - the Pandemic, Reg BI, multiple storms in the Gulf, an emotionally charged election, and civil unrest. I can’t count the number of times I have heard, “When will 2020 be over?”


In times like these, it is easy to look at what we can’t do and what seems impossible. It is also easy to accept the thoughts that we have about these issues as factual. We aren’t sure how to adapt our businesses to changing ways of doing business and regulation. We worry that there are so many obstacles between us and continued success. We aren’t even sure how best to provide client service when we can’t visit face-to-face in our offices. However, we do have choices in what we choose to believe and accept as fact around any circumstances that we face in life.


When I come up against a lot of negativity in my thoughts, I like to employ a tool called math versus drama. As advisors, we are comfortable with math and we actually employ this technique, naturally, in building a financial plan, it is our training to separate out the “math” or facts from the “drama” or client thoughts.


For a sentence or phrase to qualify as math or a fact, it must be a neutral statement. Facts don’t have adjectives or emotionally charged words in them. If everyone in the world wouldn’t agree that it is a true statement, it is not a fact. These statements are very specific. If they are phrased vaguely or are open to interpretation in any way, they are thoughts, not facts.


Everything else that comes up for us is drama or thoughts. Everything.


In a typical data-gathering session, we will learn a lot of information about a client. We collect and organize the information. One method I use looks like this.



Math = Facts

The client has a TSP plan with a balance of $400k.

The client has savings of $75k.

The client current spends $4500 per month.


Drama = Thoughts

The client wants to maintain a similar standard of living.

The client worries about the future cost of healthcare.

The client wants to contribute to education costs for two children.


We can use this same methodology to move us forward when we can’t figure out the next step for our businesses. We can take a jumble of information our minds throw at us and sort it all out. First, we just write down our stream of consciousness for 2-5 minutes.


“2020 has been so tough. I can’t wait for it to be over. Reg BI was implemented in June, and I’m still trying to incorporate it into our procedures. The pandemic related mandates are keeping my clients away from my office, and it’s so much harder to do business. Everyone wants to know what will happen after the election on November 2. They must think I have a crystal ball.”


Math = Facts

Reg BI was implemented in June 2020.

There are pandemic-related mandates.

The election is scheduled for November 2.



Drama = Thoughts

2020 has been so tough.

I can’t wait for it to be over.

It’s so much harder to do business. Everyone wants to know what will happen after the election. They must think I have a crystal ball. I’m still trying to incorporate Reg BI into my procedures-


Typically, when we do this exercise we have significantly more drama than facts. What we fail to realize is that our drama is a choice. I get to choose between the thoughts, “2020 has been so tough.” and “2020 has helped me stretch and grow in new ways.” However, when it is all jumbled up in my mind, I don’t even see that “2020 has been so tough.” is a thought. It sounds absolutely true and I expect everyone would agree with me. However, I can direct you to several blogs, podcasts, and individuals who will tell you that 2020 has been their highest grossing revenue year, or they learned new ways of doing business that are catapulting them ahead of their competition.


If I take the statement, “Reg BI was implemented in June.” I can choose an alternative thought to “I’m still trying to incorporate Reg BI into my business.” Perhaps I want to think, “Reg BI has given me a reason to reevaluate my business and look for new ways to improve service to my clients.” Do you feel a difference in how you experience each of those thoughts? With the first statement, I feel discouraged, but with the second, I feel curious. I will take different actions depending on how I am feeling. Discouragement shuts me down and makes things feel hard. Curiosity opens me up to possibility and directs my attention to the future.


Just the simple act of looking at what we think about and sorting our math from our drama can create radical shifts in what we are willing to explore and accept as our truth. Give it a try next time you are feeling stuck or overwhelmed with a circumstance or decision. I guarantee you will learn something about yourself and your potential each time you try it.


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