Life Lessons, A New Decade: How They Apply to Lending 

Last year I talked about life lessons and how they apply to banking.  When I reviewed the list entering a new decade, I started to think about where the industry was at the beginning of the decade in 2010 versus where we are today.  How much has really changed? 

Not only were these life lessons applicable this last year but are they truly universal truths in life and lending.  Reviewing our more successful clients from the last decade, these life lessons are at the forefront of leading institutions in their respective markets.  Awe start a new decade, reflect on the past with an eye on how 2020 will be the same, yet different.  See if any of these life lessons were part of your approach to banking in the last decade or can help you be a better banker in the next. 

1. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail.

You’ve failed many times, although you may not remember.

You fell down the first time you tried to walk. 

You almost drowned the first time you tried to swim, didn’t you? 

Did you hit the ball the first time you swung the bat? 

Heavy hitters, the ones who hit the most home runs, also strike out a lot.

R.H. Macy failed seven times before his store in New York caught on.

English Novelist John Creasey got 753 rejection slips before he published 564 books. 

Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times, but he also hit 714 home runs. 

Don’t worry about failure. 

Worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.

This poem was published as part of an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal many years ago.  

Bankers by nature are risk adverse.  Over the last decade, rates have continued to fall.  This last year with rates started creeping up and the possibility of a recession loomed.  Many struggled to pull the trigger and lend.  The better bankers I know, understand that they are in the business of measuring risk—then getting paid for it in all rate environments.  Don’t be afraid to lend.  Measure and quantify the risk and the price accordingly.

2. There's No Substitute For Hard Work.

Edison came up with this quote because his life was not easy at first. He would spend days in his lab in Fort Meyers, FL, with a cot in the corner to take naps.  It took him more than 1,000 attempts to produce the very first commercially light bulb.

 Working hard while also working smart will help you grow.  Successful bankers are regularly looking for new ways to serve their markets.  Be a student of the industry and understand what new ideas are being tried.  What works and what doesn’t.  As the industry continues to transform to customer-centricity, explore tools to accomplish the hard work of growing the bank in a competitive environment.

3. Don't Expect Fairness – At Least In the Short Run.

To deal with life’s unfairness, focus on the future, not on the past. Whatever happens, don’t wallow. Concentrate on others, not on yourself. Legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi reminded players that, “it’s not how many times you're knocked down, but how many times you get up again, that'll determine your destiny.” The message: just keep getting up. 

2019 was no different.  There continues to be competition for inside and outside the industry.  Expectations about a digital experience will continue to be shaped by companies outside our industry.  The successful banker learns from their competition and figures out ways to get up each day to try to beat them at the game.  Every year, there are new tools and solutions for banks to compete. 

4. Embrace Reality.

 Sam Snead was famous for saying, “Of all the hazards, fear is the worst.”  As in golf, one must face reality, embrace it and not fear it.  Seek out problems to be found, don’t fear them.  Confidence will ensue.

This is so true when managing a loan portfolio.  How many times have we seen banks bury problems, hoping that the problems somehow work themselves out?  The most successful banks take a proactive approach to monitoring their portfolios to embrace their reality.  

Let’s go into 2020 without fear, take a risk by lending more when the right situation presents itself, work hard, deal with life’s unfairness, and run into 2020 embracing reality. This is the decade to recover from missed opportunities in the last one. 

Topics: industry trends