052: James Clear on How Financial Advisors Can Simplify the Complex with Mental Models and His New Book Atomic Habits

052: James Clear on How Financial Advisors Can Simplify the Complex with Mental Models and His New Book Atomic Habits

In today’s conversation, I get to sit down with James Clear. James’s career arc has had a few twists and turns along the way as he got his start as a  travel photographer and has worked in over 30 countries. Today he focuses much of his time on writing and speaking having launched one of the most followed blogs on the internet at jamesclear.com – he also shares much of this wisdom out on Twitter and as of this recording has 110,000+ followers. In this conversation, we cover a number of topics, including diving into his just released book, Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, which covers mindset and the concepts behind the mental models that help to predict human behavior.

James’s work is very relevant for financial advisors – especially when it comes to talking about complex concepts, the many different emotions that influence decision making, and how to build trust with prospective clients in a world where we all struggle with information overload. I especially love James’s philosophy of, “believing that you do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” When I survey the landscape of the top performing advisors we work with who’ve made the leap from salesperson to CEO, I don’t know if there’s a statement that could ring more true than that one, as they all rely on systems… So, if you’re looking to grow your business or simply transform your daily routine for the better – today’s episode is a must-listen.


Here are a just a handful of the things that you’ll learn:


  • [09:05] First, James opens with a story directly from his new book Atomic Habits about how 1% changes can compound into incredible results and details a real life story about how the British Olympic cycling team transformed itself after decades of failure.
  • [13:43] From there, James introduces the concepts of mental models and focuses on a few of his favorites including “Inversion” and “Margin of Safety” that you as advisors out there can immediately start using in your next client or prospect meeting.
  • [21:26] Next, we get into (as I often joke with my clients) why so many financial advisors are prone to talking like a spreadsheet. James and I cover the many variables and sources of noise in finance and the mental models that can help you simplify complex concepts and clarify ideas for the average retiree.
  • [40:12] Then you’ll discover exactly how James models human behavior to identify investment opportunities and products that he thinks will succeed. We discuss how to philosophically think about the next unicorn that’s yet to be discovered.
  • [43:09] Then we geek out a bit on the future of financial technology including how advisors can now generate leads all over the country, and the friction points James has encountered himself in financial services that technology can help eliminate in order to land new clients.
  • [51:46] Lastly, we dive into how the process of choosing a financial advisor has changed and what it is that your prospects are REALLY looking for.

Ok, before we dive into the conversation… I worked with James to setup not 1, but 2 BIG gives for all of you Blueprint listeners!

First off, you can download Jame’s “Transform Your Habits” guide for free right at the top of the show notes at bradleyjohnson.com/52. This free download is designed to help you form the habits to make progress in health, business, and life. Who couldn’t use that, right??

And as an added bonus, hot off the presses… literally as I record this today, James’s new book Atomic Habits just went on sale and I have a box of autographed copies to mail out until they’re all gone. His book is so new, I literally haven’t even been able to read it yet, but based on our conversation, I can promise it will be one of my top reads of 2018. And by the way, I just checked Amazon.com and Atomic Habits is already a top 10 seller for all books on Amazon and #1 in multiple categories as well!!



  • [08:08] What makes Alaska such a special place to visit.
  • [17:59] How to use stoicism to help you envision the worst case scenario – and be better prepared for it.
  • [18:59] Why feeling more prepared and more certain gets you into the headspace to perform better.
  • [20:32] James breaks down one-time choices you can experiment with to improve your sleep to make meaningful differences.
  • [26:29] How James would coach a financial advisor dealing with clients who whipsaw back and forth based on market performance.
  • [28:46] The importance of stretching out time scales in financial planning – and adjusting your goals accordingly.
  • [33:59] The dangers of recklessness and emotional investing.
  • [35:27] Lessons to take from Charlie Munger’s strategies and mental models.
  • [49:29] The importance of social norms as drivers and predictors of human behavior.
  • [54:29] How to use technology to turn weaknesses into strengths – and how to position yourself to cut through information overload.
  • [57:29] Why being able to solve complex problems is so crucial to long-term success.
  • [58:79] What James wants to be seen as absurd in the future.
  • [62:51] The single thing James thinks is most responsible for his career success.
  • [1:07:29] Why consistency is so crucial to establishing yourself.




Take the 1st Step to Building Your Ideal Practice: Apply for “Virtual Discovery Session

For those of you that have interest in diving deeper or figuring out how you may be able to have our team help you implement many of the ideas shared on the show, my day job happens to be consulting financial advisors from all over the US on how to grow their business and design a practice that serves them, versus them serving it. Yes it’s possible to grow your business and work less, this is a model we’ve replicated over and over in markets all over the country… So, if you’d like to apply to see if it makes sense for us to have a 1-on-1 conversation on how to overcome what may be getting in your way, you can do that at bradleyjohnson.com/apply. It takes about 5 minutes to fill out the application so we can understand what your business looks like, what challenges you may be facing and how myself and my team may be able to help. We then dive into a Discovery session where we ask a lot of questions based on your survey. We do a lot of listening, and take a lot of notes to build a rough draft of our proprietary Elite Advisor Blueprint – 90 Day Plan™. Taking the first step is as simple as applying at bradleyjohnson.com/apply 🙂


Already heard it once or twice? Please leave a short review here, and tell me which guests I should have on!




Read More



This is provided for informational purposes only. AE06184079 For financial professional use only.

Posted in

Brad Johnson

Subscribe for new episodes of The Elite Advisor Blueprint® Podcast.

Subscribe to Brad's Podcasts and Updates

Brad podcast v2

Also, get access to WealthManagement.com exclusive articles with key takeaways that you can put into action at your own practice!

Robert Glazer

081: Robert Glazer on Elevating Your Team and Creating a High Performing Company Culture

kirk lippold

080: Commander Kirk Lippold on USS Cole Al-Qaeda Attack & How to Lead in Times of Crisis – The Virtual Financial Advisor Series™

Maria Konnikova

079: Maria Konnikova on The Psychology of High-Stakes Poker and How it Applies to Financial Services

Simon Bowen

078: Simon Bowen on How to Use Visual “Whiteboarding” Models to Simplify the Complex – The Virtual Financial Advisor Series™