• Athena Financial Group

Intelligent Disobedience

Our office had the pleasure of a behind the scenes tour of the Leader Dogs for the Blind facilities in Rochester. What a fantastic organization. So much goes into developing the highest quality, best trained guide dogs for the visually impaired. The attention to detail is amazing. From matching the best breeds, finding Puppy Raisers, to hand crafting each dog harness. We are so fortunate to have them as part of our community.

While there, I learned a new phrase, “Intelligent Disobedience”. The guide dogs are taught many commands beside the traditional dog training commands of Sit, Stay, Down etc. They are taught commands like “Forward” which means the owner wants to start moving. Sometimes, when the owner gives the dog a command like “forward”, it isn’t safe. The owner may not realize this, but the dog is trained to ignore the “forward” command when it isn’t safe. The owners are then taught to use a system to carefully explore the area before proceeding.

Our host told us a funny story about a man who knew the inside of a lumberyard by heart, he was confident he knew the lumberyard better than his guide dog. However, one time his guide dog suddenly stopped. The owner insisted to the dog to move “forward” but the dog wouldn’t budge. Then he forced the dog to move forward and the man promptly hit his head on a protruding piece of lumber. The dog knew it was not safe- he was practicing Intelligent Disobedience.

I feel like financial advisors must act like guide dogs for their clients and practice Intelligent Disobedience. For example, ten years ago when the markets were in turmoil, people’s natural tendency was to panic and sell, thus running into the proverbial piece of protruding lumber. Financial advisors need to help their clients not make terrible mistakes. Now, ten years later the reverse emotion to panic and fear is greed and vanity. We feel like we are missing out on something and better rush in because we want to be part of the mad stock market rush. It is easy to get caught up in the madness.

If you advisor tries to talk you out of an action, step back and ask yourself why? Do they have sensible reasons? Is there research backing up their claim? Are you acting because the herd is moving in a direction and you are afraid not to move along? Some careful consideration is the best option before making a rash decision and hitting your head on an unseen piece of lumber.


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