E62: Your Relationships are Your Responsibility
“To actually look at something and say, ‘I don’t take this personally’ – that’s a huge shift for me.”
Certified Financial Planner Saul Simon shares how he overcame the grief and disappointment of his marriage ending, and the importance of taking personal responsibility in relationships. Saul also shares his challenge of wanting his daughter to make the right choices, and Kim shares her unique take on parenting and relationships.
In this episode of Resilience Radio, we also explore:
-How to deal with disappointment and frustration in relationships.
-How one person can shift the dynamic of a relationship.
-An exercise that will help you improve your relationships.
-How to stay focused and engaged in your business and life.
-A key mindset shift for effective parenting.
As a Certified Financial Practitioner for over 30 years, Saul specializes in working with individuals and business owners to develop strategic financial plans that help them reach their financial and family objectives.
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Kim: Welcome, this is Kim Ades from Frame of Mind Coaching and I am the host of Resilience Radio. Today, my guest is Saul Simon from New York. Saul, are you with me?
Saul: I am.
Kim: You heard about this through a friend of yours and you reached out and you said, “Hey, I think I’d be a good guest on your show.”
Saul: That’s right.
Kim: So you know that it’s Resilience Radio and what I’m really interested in is looking at people’s stories and hearing about what they do and where in their lives professionally or personally they got kind of stuck along the way, so I’d love to hear more about what you do. I know that you’re in the financial planning world, but share with us what you do, who you do it for, and what happened along the way.
Saul: Thank you very much. I’ve been in the business of financial retirement and estate planning for over 30 years. I’m a certified financial planner and I’m also an entrepreneur/business owner. I work with business owners primarily closely held family businesses with adult children in the business. In addition, I work with female executives who lead busy lives and care about their families.
Kim: And you’ve been doing this for 30 years?
Kim: Okay, and years ago, when you started this business, you were doing it on your own? Was this a brain child of your own? Did you ever have partners? How did it go?
Saul: I have a business partner because I can’t do it all by myself. In addition, I turn to one or two other people that turn to and bring them in, so I’ve associated myself with really smart people. Similar to when you need a heart doctor, you go to a cardiologist, not a generic doctor or an intern. I care about people and my privilege is to serve people both personally and professionally.
Kim: So you’re like a coach?
Saul: I’m like a coach, a little bit, yeah. People have called me a bit of a financial coach, counselor, yeah.
Kim: So over the past 30 years, did you encounter a blockage? Was there a difficult time in your life personally or professionally where you really, really felt like you were trapped and got stuck?
Saul: Yes, the answer is yes. And listening to a few of your broadcasts, I thought that my experience could be of help to others as some of the broadcasts you had contributed to me. So I guess my challenge, which I thought was serious, was I went through a divorce after being married for 18 years. Needless to say, it certainly affected my business life and my overall well-being.
Kim: So go back. Do you have children?
Saul: Yeah. I have two kids. I have a daughter that’s 21, a senior over at American University, and my son is a 16-year-old sophomore in high school playing football.
Kim: Okay, and so how long have you been divorced?
Saul: Six years, six-and-a-half years.
Kim: So your son was 10 and your daughter was like in her mid-teens.
Kim: So after 18 years — and by the way, I’ve been divorced after 15 years, so divorce is probably one of the hardest experiences that I’ve had in my lifetime although we’ve been through a lot, but divorce is definitely up there among the hardest. So after 18 years, why suddenly did things go south?
Saul: Well, in my opinion, it was about communication and we truly do have similar values. Thankfully today we have a working relationship since we’re good parents and our primary objective is the well-being of our children. It takes two to tango and as much as I take responsibility, it does require two people that want to compromise and to produce a result in anything that’s important to them.
Kim: So what was happening there? Were you both not wanting to put in the effort?
Saul: That could be one of the answers. Another thought is sometimes human beings are stuck or they’re confronted about how things maybe are versus wanting things a certain way and maybe thinking the grass is greener on the other side.
Kim: Okay. It’s interesting the way you’re putting it. We often get uncomfortable when we look at our lives and think that they should be different or we look at our lives and want them to be a different way and feel a huge sense of frustration, disappointment, an internal battle because they aren’t the way we want them to be. Would you say that’s what took place?
Saul: Yes, and I’m also taking responsibility of being mature to say that it takes two people to want to produce results and when someone does that Rapunzel of goes up to the castle and closes the door and locks the key and is not open to coaching or not open to seeing some other perspective then that’s a problem and things don’t work out the way we maybe want to anticipate or desire.
Kim: So basically at some point, you saw the world through different lenses.
Kim: Okay, but now six years later, you described it as a good working relationship where your kids are concerned. Are you saying that that lens was always similar like you always view the raising of your children the same way or was that ever a place where you also clashed?
Saul: There was some clashing. Of course there’s some clashing, but we do come from the same place with regards to the health and well-being of our children and values, but yeah, there have been some differences, sure.
Kim: Do you remember any of them?
Saul: I think a child should — child versus a girlfriend.
Saul: I think a parent should partner with their spouse as opposed to partner with a child given that a child is —
Kim: Right. Sometimes we like to get into the example so we can wrap our arms around it, and so we’re just guessing, right? We’re guessing that as the two of you separated, your wife maybe held one of your children in confidence. Is that accurate?
Kim: And that didn’t sit so well with you.
Saul: When a parent takes the side of a child as opposed to the side of a father and adult, that becomes distorted and difficult.
Kim: But is that always the case or are there some exceptions to that rule?
Saul: Oh, there are always some exceptions to that rule, sure.
Kim: So I want to stop for a minute because there’s an interesting thing that’s happening in this particular interview and I want to point it out, and to me it’s coming across loud and clear. I don’t know if anybody else can hear it, but you’re very cautious and I think it’s because you really value at this point your relationship with your ex and you don’t really want to dredge it up or you don’t want to create the dust that may exist in waking up the past. Am I reading that correctly?
Saul: Yes. This is a thought or an issue that my ex-wife and I have or had and given that this is a public forum, I don’t think it’s appropriate to go into such detail, number one. And two, also to be candid with you and very authentic, I don’t want to put blame out there with anybody because I’m taking — and I’ve said this three times about being responsible. So if I get into a car accident, there is some fault of mine because my car was there, so I’m being straight about that also.
Kim: So why I’m pointing this out is because what I’m really, really interested in is how people overcome difficulty and it’s actually quite amazing what you are doing and it sounds like you’re being protective, but what you’re really doing is saying, “Hey, I am responsible. I am part of the mix. I take responsibility. I don’t want to blame. It’s not anybody’s one fault alone. It’s a dynamic that exists and I am part of that dynamic.”
I want to just stop and point that out because what I have discovered is that people who are able to move on or get up from adverse encounters or situations in their world are people who do not point a finger away from themselves who say, “What’s my part in this? How can I make an adjustment?”
Now, interestingly enough, you also said it takes two to tango and that’s a very common phrase out there and I don’t know if you’ve ever heard me say it doesn’t take two to tango. And why do I say that is because when you do take responsibility and when you change your dynamic, when you change your thinking, when you change your actions and your behavior, the dynamic tends to shift as well. And so your caution actually brings forward this really interesting discussion that says, “Hey, I want to help people. I want to discuss adversity. I want to discuss my thinking. I don’t want to do it while bashing anybody else,” and I applaud you for that.
Saul: Thank you.
Kim: So tell me how did you get to a place where you were able to take responsibility. How were you able to get to a place where you got divorced? Things aren’t easy when you get divorced. They’re usually fraught with a disagreement, but were you able to get to a place of agreement or being on the same page or having a good working relationship with respect to your kids? How did you get there? What kind of thinking was involved? Was that automatic and natural the minute you got divorced or did that build over time?
Saul: Oh, it’s certainly build over time. It’s certainly build over time and it’s my opinion that based on coaches, therapists and what have you, I have not reacted to certain things that have been spoken or heard. I guess I’ve also enhanced my patience and I now see or things have altered to the point where my ex-wife has communicated that there’s been some growth on her part. And there’s been a conversation on her part about maybe the grass isn’t greener and maybe we didn’t have things so bad and alluding to wanting to get back together.
Kim: Interesting. Again, it’s really important for us to capture this because I have several clients who have been through divorce or who are currently going through a separation of sorts and they really, really struggle. They struggle with what their ex is doing. They struggle with their behavior. They struggle with their lack of communication. They struggle with how they handle the kids. They struggle with how they are treated by this ex, and what you’re really saying is yes, they can do all that. You have to stand your ground and just stay firmly planted in the ground without being too affected by the other person’s behavior. Is that what I’m getting from you?
Saul: Yeah. Candidly, doing some meditation and/or learning things from a therapist or a coach and actually having the mindset of not taking things personally or looking at things from that third eye or that third perspective, which is look at how people are interacting, and this is not only personally, but this is professionally as to why is someone doing something or reacting or saying or being a certain way when in fact all I said or all I did was show up.
It’s like driving a car in the morning. Why does a car beep at you if in fact you’re doing the speed limit and you’re following the rules and you’re just being out there? Something’s going on with that person to cause anger or upset or beeping and I look at that from that third perspective or that observation perspective of if I wasn’t — it’s not personal. That’s been a big shift for me. It’s been a big shift to actually look at something and say don’t take this personally. That’s been a big thing for me.
Kim: I really want to pause here because I think that’s a huge message, don’t take things personally. When you’re talking about someone you love, someone you married, someone you slept with, someone you had kids with, it’s a little hard not to take things personally.
Kim: So how do you separate? And the reason I’m asking is because I know lots of people personally who want to know the answer.
Saul: I would just suggest to our listeners to try it. Try in the next half hour just to create an observation as to how people interact and/or react to you and/or your energy, and you need to take responsibility for your energy. I mean if you’ve got an attitude or you’re walking around angry or you’re not smiling and you’re kind of acting jerky, you’ve got to take ownership and responsibility to that, but in fact it’s a great experiment to actually stop and see and look and observe as if there’s no ego. There’s no righteousness. There’s no me, me, me. It’s a great exercise.
Kim: It’s a great exercise. So say it again, walk around as though you don’t exist or walk around and just observe?
Saul: Well, it’s both. Human beings have an ego. Human beings have an agenda and we all want to be righteous and right about something, so if we could shut that down, if we could mellow that ego down and we can just be present in the moment — I’m just asking you to try it for 15 minutes or a half hour and just be out in light and observe how people are reacting and interacting with you. It’s just great insight. You start to realize there’s actually some power there like in business when someone says ‘no’ or someone reacts to you.
Kim: When I was younger, I used to own a technology company, a software company, and we used to build simulation-based assessments and the purpose of those assessments was to help companies make better hiring decisions. And one of the products we built was called a real estate simulator and it was specifically for the real estate industry. I went out there and I was young, energetic, fearless, and fierce quite frankly. If somebody would say ‘no’, my interpretation was, “No, not right now, but definitely later.” That’s how I thought about it. It’s just, “No, not right now,” but it didn’t mean anything. It didn’t stop me from going back again and again and again. I was like a dog with a bone. I just wouldn’t put it down.
Saul: It’s a great attitude. That’s powerful.
Kim: That was me. You know, before we got you on this call, we asked you to fill out an assessment so we could understand what’s happening with you currently and I found something very interesting in what you shared. So we asked how would you rate your overall happiness; you gave me a nine. How much fun are you having, a nine. How would you rate your level of stress, two, meaning you’re not that stressed. There is one number that jumped out at me. How would you rate your level of peacefulness, a three. That doesn’t seem to fit.
Saul: Oh, my level of — what was the question?
Kim: Your level of peacefulness was a three.
Saul: Oh. I guess I made a mistake.
Kim: You made a mistake? You thought it worked the other way around?
Kim: Okay, so I’ll let you go on that one. Tell me also the other thing that you wrote in your assessment is that you would love to improve your relationship with your daughter. What is happening there and maybe we can help you out a little.
Saul: She’s a 21-year-old young lady who has a certain way of doing things and she’s my oldest. See, here I go again taking responsibility, so I’ll say to you that I want her to listen to me and I want her to do things my way and I want her to learn from my experience so that she doesn’t have to fall, stumble, and make mistakes out of my pure love for this young lady. And I get frustrated when she’s stumbling or she’s in pain or she’s crying to me or I sense there’s sadness.
As I’m speaking, I can get emotional because given my love for her, who wants to have their child experience pain? So like that, yet on the other hand through friends or through coaches, I’ve also learned that that’s the way people grow up. That’s the way that she’s taking certain paths and she’s going to learn stuff her way and all I can do is be loving and supportive and not take things personally — here we go again — of allowing her to do it her way and if she’s going to stumble, she stumbles. All I can do is be there to support her and help her, maybe pick her up.
Kim: Right. Let me share something with you. It’s something that I teach my coaches. For me, the role of a parent is also very much the role of a coach. Would you agree with that?
Kim: Yeah, and so one of the things I teach my coaches and strangely enough, it kind of contradicts most coaching philosophies out there, is that empathy isn’t a very helpful emotion. So what is empathy? Empathy is feeling the pain that other people feel. You would think that that’s a good thing to feel so that you could truly understand the person you’re trying to help except when you put yourself in somebody’s shoes and feel their pain, what happens? You feel pain too.
So let’s use a good example and I’ve used this example many, many times before, but let’s say you’re walking by and you see someone drowning in a pool. How do they feel? They feel desperate. They feel breathless. They feel in a state of panic. If you feel those feelings too, are you able to help them? You’re not.
Saul: Absolutely not.
Kim: So you have to see them, notice them, have compassion because your compassion compels you to want to help them, but you need to stand firmly on the side of the pool, reach in and pull them out. Having said that, before you even do that, you have to have a vision. You have to imagine that you have the ability and they have the ability to be safely outside of the pool and healthy.
And so when we look at your daughter, which is a really great example actually, when you look at her and you feel that pain, that sadness, you’re empathizing and that’s not going to help her. The other thing is when you see her struggling or falling, part of your fear is she can’t handle it on her own and that vision for her isn’t helpful for her either. Does that make sense?
Saul: Very powerful.
Kim: So what’s the work that needs to be done? Your friends and coaches are right, but the work is if I can envision her getting up from her fall and succeeding and sharing that vision with her, now I’m giving her something that is really a great gift. Instead of worrying for her, imagining she can’t get up or fearing that she’s doing the wrong thing or fearing that she’s going to fall again, those are not empowering in any way. In fact, what does that do? That just increases her own sense of self-doubt. She doesn’t like that feeling that’s why she does it her way. That’s why maybe she blocks out your advice. She doesn’t like that vision.
Your job is to have a vision of someone who’s capable, who handles our problems, who knows how to get back up on their own, and your job is to share that vision with her. Does that make sense?
Saul: Yes, very much so.
Kim: And what it does is two things. First, it makes you feel better about your daughter because it encourages you to see her in a great light. Who doesn’t want to feel great about their kid? The second thing it does is it transmits to her. When she sees what you see, it builds your relationship.
Saul: That’s great. That’s really great.
Kim: That’s really great. I’m glad you liked it.
Saul: You really hit home there.
Kim: Thank you. Usually we wrap up like this, but maybe we already took care of it. You’ve got a coach on the line. Is there a specific question you have for this coach?
Saul: You just shared something with me that was so profound because as a human being — and that’s probably one of the reasons why I’m successful in my business and my life, is my empathy and compassion for others. And I’ve been told that sometimes I don’t like to “make people feel uncomfortable” yet in my line of work, I need to have them feel that uncomfortableness in order to address the issue and then manage it and move it forward and resolve it.
It’s very often — and I’m just saying this and it’s going to come around in a second for my own daughter and children — that there’s a line that I — when I invite someone to want to do some work with me, I have this — boy, did you get me. I have to slow down and think and speak it. It really was powerful. I have this interpretation of stepping over the line. Do you know what I’m saying? Stepping over the line and being invasive on some point.
What I’ve learned is my line is way too short and I am by no means coming close to stepping over the line or being “inappropriate”. Now that you said this about my own daughter because I’ve always had this empathy, I’ve always to the point like some sensitivity that I just didn’t realize that I was coming from — I’m clearly coming from a wrong place.
Kim: Well, empathy sounds very nice. It sounds very kind, but it’s debilitating and you can’t help someone if you’re struggling too. That’s not a place of power at all. And so we don’t want you to reduce your compassion. We want you to be a compassionate human being, but we want you to do it from a position of strength.
Kim: Right, and so from a position of strength, you have to have a clear vision. You have to see someone succeed. Imagine if I were coaching you and I felt what you felt like kind of bad. I couldn’t possibly coach you. I have to imagine you in a better place. I have to imagine you getting there and I have to say, “Come with me. I know how to take you there,” but you have every single capacity, every single opportunity for you to be on this journey and get to where you want to go. And if I didn’t believe that then I should be fired as a coach.
Saul: And the way to do that is by asking questions as to where do you see yourself or what is it you want to accomplish?
Kim: Well, sure. If you can help someone accomplish — sure, if you can help someone accomplish what they want. You see, a lot of times conversations go like this. “Well, what do you want?” and they tell you a list of things they don’t want. “Yes, but what do you want?” and people can’t wrap their arms around what they want a lot of times.
Kim: Because they just don’t believe they could have it, because they think it’s elusive, because they don’t deserve it, because a million things, and that’s what we really need to address. So as a coach, my job is to look at how people think. My job is to look at what they believe to be true about themselves and how the world operates.
So in your case, what do you believe to be true? On some level, you believe to be true that your daughter isn’t equipped to handle the problems to get back up again, right? And so what we want to do is address that belief. It’s your daughter. She’s smart. She has your genes. Believe she can get up. Trust her, right?
Kim: And so imagine receiving the trust of your parents. Imagine your father saying to you, “You’ve got this. I believe in you. I know that yes you’ve fallen, but you can get back up and if I can help you, let me know,” totally different conversation, right?
Kim: Yes. One of my kids, he’d go to school, come home, sit on the couch and watch TV. I’d say, “Do you have any homework?” he’d say, “No,” but he did. He just never admitted it, and so he hated, hated, hated school. And the world around me said, “You need to be tougher on him. You need to discipline him. You need to reprimand him. You need to punish him. You need to give him guidelines. You need to create boundaries” and all this chatter and every ounce of my body said ‘no’.
No, that’s not what this kid needs. This kid is already beating himself up because he’s not measuring up to the rest of the world. The last thing he needs is for me to add to that experience. What he needs from me is for me to sit down with him and say, “You may not take an ordinary path, but I believe in you. You are smart. You are capable. You have everything you need. Let me know how I can help you.” This kid is now one of the hardest working kids I’ve ever seen, but he needed someone to just believe in him.
Kim: Make sense?
Saul: Absolutely. Wow!
Kim: Anything else you want to share with our audience?
Saul: I want so say a deep thank you.
Kim: I want to tell you when you and I spoke earlier, there was this interesting connection and I look forward to more conversations down the road. I think our paths will definitely cross over and over again, so Saul, I want to say thank you for being on this call and for sharing your story and allowing us to have this conversation that I’m imagining a lot of people need to hear right now, so thank you.
Saul: Well, I appreciate that and I thank you for your contribution and making the difference over here.
Kim: Until we speak again.
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