"Lessons Earned" by John Sanderson: Trust the Experts

by John Sanderson, CPA, CIMA® Feb 29, 2024 Lessons Earned

In this series, we share some of John Sanderson's favorite insights and anecdotes from his book, “Lessons Earned.” Throughout the book, John shares dozens of lessons he has learned, starting as a young boy and culminating with his leadership as founder and chairman of Sanderson Wealth Management.



“You shouldn’t be here. You should be in the hospital. Now.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. But I knew I should listen.

I was in the office kitchen with two long-time clients—a husband and wife—when I sat down on a stack of chairs. The husband, who happened to be a doctor, asked how I was feeling.

I told him my shoulders were sore—probably from using exercise bands, I thought. That’s when he told me I needed to get to the hospital right away. Then he picked up the phone, called the hospital, and said he was sending me in immediately as a likely cardiac case.

I was skeptical, and almost brushed off his advice. First of all, he had just walked into the office five minutes earlier. He was a nephrologist, not a cardiologist. And it didn’t feel like I was having a heart attack. It was just some shoulder pain, not like an elephant was sitting on my chest. I was fine, right?

But he insisted, so I agreed to go to the hospital. (Years later, he told me he was impressed that I actually listened.) I called my wife, who took me to the hospital, which, fortunately, was only a mile away.

They were expecting me, and within minutes, I found myself surrounded by a team of cardiologists and nurses trying to remove a blockage in my blood vessels using clot-busting drugs. Supposedly, my blood pressure actually went to zero at one point. They stabilized me, scheduled me for an angiogram, and eventually used a metal stent to restore my blood flow.

When you’re lying on a hospital table, looking up at doctors and nurses in lab coats and scrubs, the bad news is you know you can die. The good news is, I obviously didn’t—thanks to my client.

So how did he know, just by looking at me and asking one simple question, that something wasn’t quite right?

He noticed that I was sitting down in the kitchen while waiting for the coffee to brew, even though I usually stand up. So he started asking questions. When I said my shoulders were sore, he realized that it was likely atypical chest pains, not just muscle soreness.

There were probably dozens of other red flags, too—things I never would have noticed, because I’m not a medical expert, and I wasn’t paying attention to the right things. But those signs were clear as day to my client, because he had spent decades building his expertise and honing his craft.

Expertise, intuition, and specialization are invaluable. I can look at a portfolio and quickly see if something is out of balance, just like the doctor looked at me and immediately sensed something was off. I’ve always been a proponent of surrounding yourself with highly qualified experts and specialists, and simply letting them do their jobs. In fact, long before specialization in accounting was popular, I helped develop specialists in state and local taxation, international taxation, employee business plans, and other key areas—first at the firms where I worked, and then at Sanderson.

Experts are worth their weight in gold. So when you have the chance, hire them. Work with them. Trust them and, above all, listen to them. Believe me—it may save your life someday.


Reprinted with permission from "Lessons Earned: Stories from a Lifetime Spent Fully Invested," copyright © 2022 John R. Sanderson.

This story reflects the author’s present recollections of people and experiences over time. Some identifying details have been changed and some dialogue has been recreated. While the author has made a concerted effort to provide accurate information, neither the publisher nor the author shall have any liability or responsibility for any adverse effects or loss caused, or alleged to be caused, directly or indirectly, by any information included in this story.