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Some of my most common sources of inspiration for blogs are industry conferences, my mild obsession with podcasts and my long-term involvement with CISV.  In just the last week, I experienced the rare trifecta of a blog idea intersecting with all three of these sources.

The theme that kept resurfacing is proximity.

Podcast Proximity

I subscribe to Bill Simmons’ podcast primarily to feed my interest in sports and, to a lesser extent, pop culture.  During the September 4th episode, Bill interviewed Brian Koppelman, writer, director and producer of such films as Rounders, Ocean’s Thirteen and the current Showtime hit series, Billions.

In doing some research for an upcoming episode of the show, Koppelman, a lifetime fan of the New York Giants, shared a story about meeting New England Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick.  The Patriots are the Giants’ bitter rival and Koppelman admitted to spending much of his adult life picturing the eight-time Super Bowl champion coach as something akin to Darth Vader.  Koppelman imagined that if he ever had the chance to meet him that he’d call him “Cheating Bill” (a reference to some of the Patriots’ past controversies) or yell, “Go Giants” at him.  But of course, things change when you’re face to face with a person.

After spending an afternoon together, he admittedly found Belichick to be a charming, engaging, intelligent man.  He couldn’t imagine yelling unkind words at him and came away liking and respecting him more than he ever thought possible.  He credited his change of heart to proximity, the idea that it’s much harder to hold resentment or anger with someone you’ve met and spent time with in person.

Simmons reacted to that story by sharing that was one of the reasons he left the sports media world for a more personal brand of media.  That proximity in the world of journalism was viewed negatively as getting too close to a team or player could result in compromising a reporter’s ability to be objective.  He preferred the podcasting format as it allows him to get to know his guests more intimately.

Conference Proximity

Last week, I attended the first ever WealthStack, a conference designed to showcase the latest and greatest in financial technology, an area in which billions of dollars are currently flowing as firms seek to improve the manner in which we compile data and dispense advice to our clients to create an optimal experience.

Many of the attendees at this conference are considered part of “Financial Twitter” or #FinTwit as it is known.  For many, it was the first-time meeting people they felt close to as social media connections in person.  A common discussion among this crowd was how social media tends to dilute a person down to one or two aspects of their personality and permits a certain boldness that typically doesn’t carry into direct interactions.  Suddenly, these voices, some with thousands of followers, turn into human beings with all the good and bad that goes along.

Proximity, it was widely agreed to by many I spoke with at the conference, allowed for better, deeper connections and understanding about who people were and what they were hoping to accomplish beyond the Twittersphere.

CISV Proximity

On Monday, I met with a few members of the local Cincinnati CISV chapter, including a man who was part of one of the very first programs CISV put on in the 1950s.  We were meeting to put together a presentation for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute through the University of Cincinnati on the organization and its programs.

As we attempted to get to the very essence of the organization for our presentation, we all agreed that what often draws people to CISV at first is the allure of programs for children involving international travel, but what keeps people involved has almost nothing to do with that.  Instead, it’s the deep connections made with people from all over the world.  In fact, the hypothesis the organization’s founder, Dr. Doris Allen, set out to prove was that putting diverse groups of people from across the globe in close proximity to one another for many weeks at a time would help them recognize that people from all cultures are much more alike than they are different and, were this realization to spread, the chances of global conflict could be greatly reduced.

Financial Planning Proximity

Of course, I need to tie all this back to our day to day work here at TAAG.  We feel that one of our most distinguishing characteristics as a firm is our size and ability to maintain very close relationships with our clients.  We see clients, especially newer clients, hesitate at times to share certain stories or events in their lives as they feel it might be minutiae, not worth our time or don’t see a direct correlation to their finances.

We encourage this sharing, even some of the more mundane, day to day needs and aspects of their lives.  These stories and the proximity it creates, equips us all the more with the ability to more fully understand our clients, their goals and what matters most to them in life.  It makes us better planners and allows us to better connect our clients financial resources with what’s most important in their lives.