It’s hard to believe that the famous BBC Dad episode (link opens in new tab) occurred 4 years ago. Now, we’re all BBC Dad and that’s not a bad thing.
As a quick recap, political science professor Robert E. Kelly was being interviewed on the BBC live about South Korea. He’s all dressed up, talking about serious political issues in South Korea, when his two young children come dancing into the camera. It’s hilarious to watch the children parade around while he tries not to get distracted. It’s all over when his wife runs into the room trying to wrangle the kids back out. What makes it funny to watch now, for me, are the many personal experiences I’ve had over the past year just like Kelly’s.
In my practice as a financial advisor, I try to create a judgement-free zone. During initial conversations with me, clients often say things like, I made a lot of bad decisions about money when I was young and I’m still making up for it now. Or, I feel embarrassed that I don’t know what to do about my investments. Or, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to afford a home/to send my kids to college/to retire – what’s wrong with me?
These statements tell me about my client’s attitudes toward money and how they may have made financial decisions in the past. And, through these statements I can learn where they think their challenges are, and help them develop a more healthy relationship with money.
I try to encourage clients to bring their whole selves to the financial planning process. I want to hear about their hopes and dreams for the future – in fact, that is a critical part of the discussion as we begin work on their financial plan or discuss their investments.
But when it comes to me, bringing my whole self, I’m a little more judge-y. I take my work seriously, and part of that for me is showing up to a meeting dressed professionally, with my documents in order, my cell phone on silent so there are no interruptions. Yet, over the past year, my life has been anything but “normal” and free of interruptions.
I’ve had to get better at giving myself grace to be ok with my dog Jaguar barking every time the doorbell rings with another Amazon Prime delivery, the child remote schooling and needing something (markers! a fresh piece of paper! a snack! more water!), and the numerous other interruptions I’ve faced while in virtual client meetings. I’m still not great at being ok with life interruptions while I’m meeting with clients, but I’m getting better.
Yesterday, my son finished with remote school and came downstairs for a hug before he ran off to play Roblox. While I was on a virtual call. My client was nonplussed by the interruption and we moved on pretty seamlessly with our discussion.
Over the past year, I’ve also had honest conversations with clients when they ask, about how my life is going; what’s especially challenging; and sharing grief and sadness about how things have changed. My clients have comforted me in ways I never would have experienced if I had not been so open with them. What a blessing.
I think my attitude change about letting my personal life into my work is what made Heidi Stevens’ article in the Chicago Tribune today about BBC Dad resonate with me. She calls it the fourth wall – behind that fourth wall at work is the rest of our lives: a whole family and life outside of work.
From the article:
BBC Dad broke the fourth wall. We didn’t have to know or care what took place behind that closed (but famously not locked) office door, or what hoops he and his wife had to jump through to give him that time and space to pontificate on South Korea’s political turmoil. He had on a tie and said smart words and that was that.
Then his kids broke in.
The pandemic is reducing the fourth wall to rubble and carrying the pieces, one by one, to the scrap heap of history. We’re reminded, day in and day out, that employees have families and pets and loud neighbors and utility workers swinging by, and those are good things.
Since Covid, that fourth wall has come tumbling down in ways we never could have predicted 4 years ago, when the BBC Dad first appeared. And I agree with Stevens: that’s a good thing.