It is the start of a new year, and if you’re like me, you are feeling all of the excitement that comes with setting new goals. To celebrate that, I recently sat down with one of my coaching clients, Nisu Patel, to discuss mindset, achieving breakout performances, and leadership in a new episode of Elite Achievement.
Nisu grew up around small businesses, entrepreneurship, and the American dream. He is a first-generation college graduate who studied finance and interned at Northwestern Mutual’s top-tier program, where he learned how to start, build, and grow a financial planning practice.
Today, Nisu helps entrepreneurs and professionals maneuver unique financial challenges and creates plans to ensure his clients are well protected through whatever life throws their way. Last year, Nisu was honored as one of Northwestern Mutual’s top financial planning advisors in the country. He was inducted into the company’s elite membership, the 2021 Forum Group. Nisu is the second youngest advisor to achieve this esteemed Forum status and is the youngest within his home state of Alabama. In addition to serving his clients, Nisu is a growth and development director with the firm where he oversees recruitment and development.
I start our conversation by asking Nisu what inspired him to begin his financial planning practice.
“So, I actually grew up around entrepreneurship and small business from a very young age,” Nisu begins. “Not many people outside of my inner circle know this, but I was born overseas. My family and I immigrated to the States when I was only a few months old. And they were chasing the American dream, looking for better opportunities. The best way was through small business. And that’s kind of where I got my early exposure. I spent many of my weekends and holidays helping the family at the small businesses. So that’s where my interest in entrepreneurship was formulated.”
I ask Nisu to share some of the biggest lessons he learned, and he says there were many. Some lessons he wanted to replicate, and other times, they were lessons that he observed that he knew he wanted to avoid. He explains how his family had somewhat of a scarcity mindset that came from being in a new environment with many unknowns. But they also invested heavily in their businesses to accelerate their growth.
I’m curious how these valuable lessons and Nisu’s education led him to join an internship and eventually a career in financial planning and services.
Nisu explains how he didn’t know what an internship entailed or meant at the time. “I had a lot of people around me that cared and wanted to see me succeed tell me that it was time to start looking for internship opportunities,” Nisu says. “Because going through school, I changed majors at a young age multiple times. I then landed on business because I had a background there. I wanted to make sure I could find a career where I could support multiple generations and get off the payroll of my mother. At that point in my life, I thought the only way I could accomplish that was by being on Wall Street. So, I started applying to all these programs and companies that had what I thought were high-level internship programs. And because I was a sophomore going into my junior year, I got a lot of generic email responses. Through that, I found an internship opportunity with Northwestern Mutual.”
I’m smiling because I recruited for the Northwestern Mutual internship program in Los Angeles for years. I remember many candidates that came to career fairs, and every once in a while, I would find a gem in a sophomore. I gave some of those candidates the opportunity to start building a practice, just like Nisu has shared.
Last year was a breakout year for Nisu, so I ask what inspired him to go after this goal of achieving the company’s top level of production, the top 2% of financial advisors in the firm.
“Well, it’s funny that you asked that question as a follow-up because as you were describing your time when you were working with Northwestern Mutual and the internship program in Los Angeles, I remember when I was so young in age starting that program,” says Nisu. “I didn’t have the background that a lot of my peers did, and I remember going through training and thinking, what have I gotten myself into? It was overwhelming. I was a deer in the headlights. But it seemed like an incredible opportunity. This place has a phenomenal culture and is full of great people. And this seemed like an opportunity that would allow me to accomplish the things that I wanted to accomplish for myself and my family.”
Nisu explains that he made a decision then and there that he was going to outwork everyone. What he didn’t know wasn’t going to stop him; he was committed to the journey.
“I knew that I was going to accomplish this milestone. I just didn’t think I would be able to accomplish it as quickly as I was able to accomplish it, or hit that milestone as soon,” Nisu shares. “But one thing that led to that kind of breakout performance was I was ultra-dedicated. I was more dedicated to my business than I had ever been before. And I don’t think that happened intentionally. That happened because I also went from having a team to running my business solo. So much of that dedication came from losing staff that I had within my business until that point. In 2021, I went back to being a solo entrepreneur and a solo business owner, which forced me to focus on the most important variables and the variables that drove action, which allowed me to be laser-focused and raised my self-awareness. And it’s because this goal was so important to me that my mind naturally found the energy to help me accomplish that goal whenever there were gaps, and I needed a small burst of energy.”
Nisu shares another piece that he believes was important and that was learning to be abundant. “Abundance can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people,” Nisu reflects. “But for me, abundance meant that when I had extra resources or extra time, I had to invest that strategically into my business and into what I wanted to accomplish. And because I had a big, audacious goal, I had to be abundant in the fact that I had to create strategic partnerships to help me with my workload. And I had to learn to delegate. You hear the saying, if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. I had been in business for a few years up until this point. And often, entrepreneurs, business owners, and leaders, once we have some early success, we get away from the fundamentals and the things that got us to this point. And many of those things that helped me get to this point in my life were people helping me along the way, pouring into me and being resources for me, and partnering with me. I was starting to get away from that. Maybe it was my ego getting too big, my head getting too big.”
Nisu has brought up so many good points. Many business owners believe that if they lose their team, their goals are shot for the year. I find it incredibly inspiring that he had a different approach when his team transitioned. It didn’t distract him from the goal. In fact, it did the opposite. It helped him get laser-focused, accomplish what was most important, work strategically, and really understand his priorities.
Nisu shares how a mentor taught him the importance of having time to think and strategic ‘think’ time. Having those things in place allowed him to have a good perspective and not get caught up in the negative, even though it was hard at first. And also, to say no, and focus on the priorities.
Being able to say no and having clarity about what we want to accomplish and why we want to achieve it are such essential skill sets. Knowing the top priorities required to accomplish our big goal makes it easier to say no and set those boundaries. Nisu also mentioned mindset and how he learned to become abundant, even though he grew up watching his family have a scarcity mindset in their business. I ask him what he considers the difference between the two to be, and how we can grow our abundant mindset.
“When it comes to abundance and scarcity, I think that you can frame it how you need to frame it in your head,” Nisu begins. “It can be monetary. It can be timewise. It can be just the way you think. My parents were always working because they had that scarcity thought that we’re new business owners, we need to minimize overhead and expenses, we can’t afford to pay a salary to someone. So, let’s just figure out how to work a twelve-hour shift. Not delegating, not thinking abundantly, not teaming were all scarcity habits. They were important sacrifices, but in the moment, what they were saying no to were certain school activities, or vacations, or parties, and such. So, those things really resonated at a young age and showed me that man, if I’m an entrepreneur one day, yes, I want to grow a phenomenal business that allows us to do the things we want to do, but I also want to have the structure that allows me to still live my life. Sometimes we neglect the flexibility that business offers us because we get caught up in the now and doing what feels urgent and super important. As far as abundance goes, I mean, it takes a lot of work. Like I said earlier, I’m not perfect. I’m human too. So, a lot of times, scarcity thoughts and actions come up. And for me, having faith, trusting the process, having a game plan, and believing in what I’m doing allows me to be more abundant. Having good mentors that have been where you’re trying to go helps with being abundant too, because fear is what drives scarcity, in my opinion. So, because I surrounded myself with people who have accomplished what I’m trying to accomplish, that I respect, and have similar philosophies and values, it made it a lot easier to have faith and be abundant. It also made it a lot easier to stick to the process and the game plan, not only when things were going well, but also when things weren’t.”
It’s often easier to stick to a game plan when things are going well, and you’re seeing traction and getting results. The key is sticking to the game plan when things don’t go well. And I’m hearing Nisu say having mentors and individuals who think big in your network helps us navigate some of those difficult times.
Nisu agrees and explains how his deep love for people and being around people has been part of that challenge. He has always worried about whether people like him, and had to make tough decisions in his business as a leader and entrepreneur who focused more on being respected than liked. That process has allowed him to be more abundant and say no to things that weren’t priorities, or maybe weren’t urgent and important.
That is such a critical point in this discussion. I had a mentor teach me it is better to be respected than to be liked. And once I started to understand what that meant, my impact as a coach increased dramatically. Nisu mentioned having great mentors, and I ask him to explain how he has built those mentorship relationships successfully.
“I’m blessed to have a lot of the people that I consider to be mentors in my life, and I’m very grateful that they sacrifice time and energy for me,” says Nisu. “But I think when you’re talking about people to surround yourself with and mentors, it’s important to understand who they are and where they’re at in life, because often, those people are getting asked for stuff very frequently. As someone seeking to grow and learn, you have to do things to set yourself apart and show them that you value their time, energy, money, and resources. It might be coming prepared with questions, looking up their biography, or knowing some of their story and background. The next piece of it is that you have to show them that you value their opinion in their mentorship by giving them feedback, going back to them, and telling them how you found value in what you learned from them. And, within that, you also have to be careful at times, because I experienced this as well. Because I love people, I love being around people, and I try to show up as my authentic and genuine self, whenever I interact with someone, people often are attracted to that. And people want to be a part of that, including mentors. And one thing I learned and found is that you have to make sure that the mentors and the people you have in your inner circle have a similar thought process and similar priorities, philosophies, and values. Because if you have too many mentors that have conflicting thoughts, or personalities, or conflicting views, it’s hard to differentiate what’s good advice and what’s bad advice, and it can leave you with analysis paralysis.”
I love that Nisu has brought up values. Because if we start to get clear on what it is we value, both personally and in our businesses, that will help us identify mentors and where to invest. I know one of the things that Nisu values tremendously is growth and development, so I ask him to talk about some of his decisions around investing and how investing in his business in 2021 helped him achieve a breakout performance.
Nisu jumps in by sharing how investing in his business has helped him accelerate his goals and timelines, but that he’s also made some bad investments that didn’t help his growth. “I don’t think I would have caught them if I didn’t have strategic ‘think’ time to analyze those investments that I was making,” Nisu says. “But as I look back on the past year, I invested in multiple personal coaches, and that brought in a layer of accountability. I’ve invested in my wardrobe, how I appear, and how people perceive me. As a business owner, there are many different ways that you can invest in your business and yourself. It’s important to find alignment with those things. And also, to make sure that the investments you’re making give you energy. It’s even more impactful if you can tie a lot of your investments for your professional world or your business world into things that are fun and enjoyable for you personally.”
Nisu continues to say that thinking abundantly and not having that fear of “Is there enough for the business?” or “Where are clients going to come from?” allowed him to be more comfortable in investments that he made. And to be more aggressive in those investments.
Deciding to invest as a business owner can be challenging. And Nisu raises an interesting point: fear that can sometimes pop up, like “Will there be money to cover this investment in the future?” or “Will I earn more money?” But if you make strategic investments, delegate, and leverage the investments that you’re making, it should free up more of your time as a business owner to focus on the revenue-generating activities!
“I also think that it grows your conviction, and what you’re doing, whether it’s a sales-related business or a retail type of business,” Nisu explains. “Whatever it is, if you’re investing in your business, that shows you subconsciously, and also the people around you, that you believe in what you’re doing.”
Absolutely! I love that and want to talk a little bit more about belief. I’m going to guess there have been some challenges Nisu faced as he grew his own business, specifically as he sought to achieve a goal that he had never achieved before. I ask him how belief helped him become one of the top 2% of financial advisors in his company.
“I think belief had a lot to do with it,” Nisu says. “But belief is only so much. It can only give you so much energy. I think tying your belief in what you’re doing and your why was very helpful for me. Not many things can re-energize you when there’s just thing after thing going wrong. So, I think the only thing that will give you energy at that moment is revisiting why you are there. For me, the belief that what I was doing was important, but also the belief that we’re all human and that at times, we need to slow down and unplug and recharge was also helpful, because there would be times when I was running so hard, and I would get drained. What I was doing was so important that I was kind of at a crossroads where my body was telling me, look, I know this is important to you, but you can’t keep pushing on. And I think it’s important that we listen to our body, take care of our personal and mental health, and take time to unplug, recharge, and reset. Because then when you come back, you’re going to be a lot more dangerous. You’ve had time to recharge, and you’re back on track for what your goal was. When these challenges come up, great people set themselves apart from the rest of the pack when they can stick to a plan when things aren’t going well. Because in the work that I do, I’ve learned about emotions and how people make decisions off of emotions. And if you don’t have a plan, when something doesn’t go your way, it’s really easy to emotionally make the wrong decision.”
I ask Nisu to share what keeps him connected to his plan during those difficult times, and he shares that one of the biggest things that keeps him connected to his plan is having things in place to recharge strategically. He also shares how he thinks about what can re-energize him when things don’t go his way, even before he sets out to hit a big goal. One of those things was having a small group of friends that would spend time with him. He explains how important it is to share your why and your vision with people that care about you because when you’re losing energy, that inner circle can be there to help you get back on track.
As I listen to Nisu, I notice that a big part of his achievement process is not always working harder. If he is faced with a challenge or something doesn’t go right, he’s not necessarily gripping tighter and pouring more in, adding extra hours, and doing more. Instead, he’s shared the importance of stepping away, recharging, going back to what gives him energy, and then coming back with a different mindset to approach the problem again. Nisu confirms and says, “Of course, sometimes it may be that you just have to work harder. But you don’t want to make that decision emotionally without thinking it through.”
Nisu has shared a lot about the importance of strategy and establishing ‘think’ time. I ask him how he leverages that practice to be more strategic in his business. He explains that it can look different at different times. It may be reflecting and vision casting, or getting strategic with another individual.
“I think the most important thing when it comes to think time is not having distractions,” Nisu shares. “The other thing is making sure that it’s blocked off on the calendar, that it’s systematic and routine. I’ve got strategic ‘think’ time that I have throughout the week routinely. But then also, I’ll add think time if I need specific time around certain topics. I think it’s important to take notes during your think time and reflect back and write down the thoughts you’re having and the action items you’re planning on working on. There are many things to remember and keep track of, especially for business owners, entrepreneurs, and leaders. So, I think it’s important to put pen to paper during your think time and to set deadlines within it. That way, you can reflect back, revisit, and also have something to hold you accountable.”
I journal a lot, and I know for me and my business, I have think time with other people. I have very strategic time on my calendar, whether it’s with my peer accountability partner, coach, or entrepreneur groups. And during this time, I’m making sure I’m prepared with things to talk about, questions to ask, and things to think through. And I’m writing notes down. But you don’t have to overthink it. Think time might look like starting with a notebook and a piece of paper and a pen, and writing down a question or challenge you have in your business, or thinking about your vision. As you engage in this process, you will find the system and the format that works well for you.
Nisu agrees and explains that something he finds helpful is just being naturally curious. He shares some questions he uses, like “Why do you want that?,” “Is that really important?,” and, “If you can’t do that, why not?” He says it allows you to get creative and figure out a way.
I know that sometimes we tell ourselves these little stories, and we think they’re rooted in truth or that it’s the way it has to be, but it’s not always true. One of the questions I like to ask myself is, how can I? It gets my brain thinking, what are the options? How can I make this happen? I ask Nisu what other advice he has for setting big goals.
“You just said one nugget right there that I think we need to unpack, and it’s what we’re feeding our minds,” Nisu says. “The ‘why not’ question compared to the ‘how can I.’ It sounds so silly, but that was something that I grasped over the last year as well. I’ve got to make sure that I’m feeding my mind good fuel. Because whatever we’re dripping into our brain becomes a reality, and it becomes habitual. So, I think it’s really powerful that we’re aware of how we’re subconsciously talking to ourselves and how we’re subconsciously thinking about things, and how our brain is picking that language up.”
I absolutely agree. Mindset plays a huge part. It took me a while to realize that I was, in my own way, the one that was preventing myself from achieving the things I wanted, or growing the business that I wanted. I recently learned in a group coaching program that mindset work is a journey, and it’s going to be ongoing. Sometimes you think, I have to bust this one limiting belief and I’m going to have it all figured out. And it’s like, no, no, no, no, no, that limiting belief could pop back up. We have to have systems, routines, and practices to keep our mindset strong. As our conversation comes to a close, I ask Nisu if he has any other advice he wants to share.
“One, I would say, is to make sure you have fun with it,” Nisu says. “Make sure that you’re not serious 100% of the time. It’s okay to mess up along the way. It’s okay to crack a few jokes along the way. We’re all human. The second thing, I think, is to find good guides for your journey. They can be people within your industry, within your firm, or they can be people who are not in your industry and have no background. But I think it’s important to find a few good guides for your journey. That way, you get different perspectives. And you get good advice and accountability along the way, and make sure you loop those guides into this next piece. You need to create a plan for the journey you’re trying to embark on. And within that plan, know what variables you need to track and what variables you need to create a system, or some mechanism, to track those different moving pieces for. Then have it in front of you constantly. Always know what the scoreboard is saying. And then don’t be afraid to tell people you know some of these big goals and commitments that you have, especially the ones in your inner circle. And make sure you’re able to tie it to your purpose and why for those days and times when energy is just getting drained out of you.”
Have fun, find good guides, plan for your journey, and track, I recap. Tracking is my jam. I love talking about tracking, establishing systems, and staying connected to your why when things get difficult. Nisu has shared incredible pieces of advice! I ask him where people should go to learn more about the impactful work he is doing with his clients. He recommends his website, or on LinkedIn and Instagram.
And with that goal achievers, keep focusing on your weekly wins, noting your lessons learned, and identifying your priorities for next week so you can consistently pursue progress in the direction of your goals.