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Posted on September 19, 2019

Experience is the Best Teacher

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By Kent Kuhlmann

As I prepare to move into my 4th decade of coaching and advising individuals on their financial paths and challenges, I can’t help but echo the sentiment that experience is the best teacher. We all wish we could sail through life with no significant issues, hardships or change, but clearly it is the hard times where we grow and learn the most.

I have known many of you for almost my entire career so you may be familiar with some of my history but for those of you that don’t, I would like to share a list of the many things I have been through in my life as an advisor.

I have been through the nursing home ordeal with parents and have lost both of them.  I was trustee and executor of their estate and collaborated successfully with my brother during my dad’s final years in the continuum of independent living to skilled nursing.  I have been divorced…twice actually but once during this career phase of my life and it was extremely long and unpleasant.  During that same time we were experiencing the Great Recession and I worked through a difficult split with my former business partners so, along with many, I survived extreme financial hardship and had to completely rebuild my business and my personal finances.  I have had to successfully run a small business now for 3 decades in addition to my work as an advisor and have had to reinvent that several times as many of you have lived through those transitions.  If you can think of life situations that might keep you up at night, I have experienced many of them.  I raised two step-daughters who have become lovely and wonderful, self-sustaining young ladies and after getting re-married to my incredible wife Jennifer, my son was born months after my 53rd birthday so I am raising a child in today’s interesting environment.  What a ride!

I have never been happier than I am now but in the thick of all of the above, it was hard to imagine anything close to the life I have now was waiting out there.  I simply adopted a “failure is not an option” attitude and pushed through accepting whatever I was dealing with and figuring it out.  Now, I am very aware that many of you have been through much worse and survived and thrived as well but the bottom line is, you can’t teach the lessons learned through navigating life’s many challenges.  All of this has made me a better advisor and I am more passionate about what I do than ever.  I am someone who has been in the trenches and also helped so many others navigate rough waters.  Bottom line is don’t fear change and never give up.  There is always a valuable lesson to be learned and I am here for you as a resource and shoulder for you to lean on.  My practice has been built on empathy, humility, patience and pure guts and that is the way I intend it to continue.

Many of you had the pleasure of interacting with Ryan and Austin Stille this summer as they interned at the firm.  I am pleased to say at this point they will be returning to KAF next May to begin their careers and mentor under Gail and me.  I have not met two finer young men for the job.  They are polite, intelligent and hungry to learn and grow in the culture of what we stand for.

In summary, this is a ‘thank you’ to all of you.  Those that have been with me through many years and those who have recently instilled their trust in us to help guide them forward.  I am humbled and deeply grateful for the presence of each of you in my life and look forward to many years of serving you and your families.  I hope for smoother sailing ahead but for those lessons still out there…bring ‘em on!

Kent

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