My interview with Will Anfuso: Give Back and Get More Out of Life
Will Anfuso has been on a quest since he was a teenager: he’s been searching for ways to live a meaningful life.
Glance quickly at his life on paper, and most of us would assume he’s had a great life from a young age. However, as a senior vice president at a Wall Street firm, Will began to sense that there was something off in his business life, despite his achievements. The hours were long, the success was there but he felt constrained by the firm’s culture. While he had ascended quite quickly, he saw his future in the lives of those further up the food chain. He wasn’t interested in becoming a lesser version of himself. Additionally, he wanted to make a bigger impact than could be made inside this gigantic firm.
After almost a decade in at this firm, he took a risk and founded a wealth management organization, Cordant Wealth Partners. This leap allowed him to chart his own course for both himself and clients. As the company grew, he realized his vision for Cordant Wealth Partners went far beyond what a wealth management company could reasonably facilitate.
Earlier this year, Will shared about his perspectives on being an effective CEO and how he’s using his success at Cordant Wealth to make more of an impact and fund new ventures.
1. Essentially, you restructured your role as CEO so you could explore this life-long quest of creating businesses that help people live a meaningful life. Do you think this is a common path for most CEOs?
Probably not. But for those who feel compelled to do something, I think there is no other choice. I needed to restructure my role to create a leadership team and enable growth for others in the company. Most business owners I talk to struggle with this transition. It’s hard to trust others to do things “right,” and it can be hard to acknowledge that you need other people’s help.
2. What would you tell a CEO/entrepreneur who feels stuck?
First, it’s important to commit to getting unstuck; without that commitment I believe you will stay stuck. It takes courage to persist in the face of the emotional decisions you will likely need to make in getting unstuck.
Second, make sure you’re surrounded by people who are better than you in important ways. And if you’re not, start hiring them now. It’s really easy to be at the top of an organization and have people treat you like you’re the glue that holds everything together. The reality is, no person, regardless of skill or intellect, can single-handedly grow a company. To build something great for customers, a business should be bigger than its founder. So, if you’re feeling that sense of being stuck, make sure you’ve got the right people and that you have a framework to eventually off load parts of your job that others are much better at.
3. How did you approach that process of getting “unstuck”?
When I get stuck, I ask myself questions like “What do I really want out of life?” I have a method that I have been using for years. It keeps me as clear-headed as possible and helps me make tangible progress in my work life and personal life. In one of the ventures, we are turning this method into an online app so both individuals and families can utilize it.
4. Are there any additional questions “stuck” CEOs should ask themselves?
Sure. For example, I think it’s important to try to envision what a good day in their personal and professional lives looks like. “What would I be doing?” If you’re still chasing after “just a paycheck,” ask yourself if that’s really fulfilling to you. Speaking from experience, it’s not enough to get paid well or just mildly enjoy the work you do—and if that’s how you feel, maybe you haven’t tapped into what you really want to do with your life.
For me, it’s important to be responsible with the good fortune I’ve been given in life. This fortune I am referring to goes well beyond money. All of the resources we business owners’ possess is really quite amazing. From the country we live in, to the way our brain is wired. The work I do today is driven by a deep desire to see a positive impact in my life and in the lives of others; I’m willing to suffer and sacrifice. For me, I want to make an impact, or die trying. It might sound foolish, but it’s true.
5. What are you spending your time on these days?
I am funding a few ventures that I have wanted to see come to fruition for a long time. As I said earlier, in my adult life, I’ve been trying to figure out how to live meaningfully. I assumed since humans have been around for a while now, surely there’s a definitive work that distills all this information. I have found it quite laborious to discover answers for myself and would like to make this process easier and better. I’m interested in ventures and projects that really move the dial in helping us as a society to live more meaningfully in the service of ourselves and others. My first business was built on this idea, and to this day we are seeking to help our clients and their families live more securely and meaningfully through the tool of finance.
6. Did you have funding or investors that helped launch these new ventures?
I have been the main investor as of now. I’m in a place where these ventures are something I want to see through, which is why I’m willing to take a bit of a leap. Talented people are investing in other ways. I feel very grateful to have teams of people dedicating their time and talents to getting these ventures off the ground. Their investment is not trivial in the least.
7. Is there anything else you want other CEOs or entrepreneurs to know?
Everything seems to come back to working on me first. In business and in life the issues are not “out there”—they are right between my ears. If each of us can move ourselves to a continually better version, the impact can be huge. Whether I am facing a barrier in the business or my personal life, I have found it valuable to look within first. It can be a bit painful, depending on what you find, but more times than not the shift needs to happen with me first.
I suggest not skipping over this idea or discounting it. Each of us has a choice whether to do this inner work or not. And the results can be quite stark either way. You or I can pay the price now and do the work today, or ignore it and deal with the fallout later.