Suze Orman: the teacher, the friend, the confidant, the brand

By Randall Kenneth Jones
Originally published in the Naples Daily News

It’s practically impossible to write about time spent with personal-finance wizard Suze Orman using a detached, third-person journalistic voice. Why? Suze Orman excels at leaving no financial or emotional stone unturned—she lives to get personal.

Orman’s response to my first question (“How do I make this interview interesting for you?”) set the tone for all that was to follow: “Ask me things that really mean something to you and will transform your life financially and emotionally,” she instructed.

With “you” and “your” prominently displayed at the forefront of her directive, “I” started to get anxious. Suze Orman expected to talk to flawed-human “me,” not probing-writer “me.”

WGCU recently hosted Orman to speak at a fundraising and “friend-raising” event at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples.

As a devoted viewer of “The Suze Orman Show”—which recently bowed after 13 years on CNBC on Saturday, March 28—I could only wonder if Orman’s I-can-see-right-through-you on-screen persona now had me in its sights.

My internal questioning mechanism was all a-twitter: #helpme

As the erstwhile villain/catalyst in her financial life was a smarmy broker named “Randy,” was I to suffer guilt-by-first-name association? Will I be forced to disclose my lackluster annual 401(k) contributions? And finally, on a personal level, will I metaphorically be “approved” or “denied”?

Suze Orman may be a two-time Emmy Award-winning television host, a New York Times mega-bestselling author, a columnist and one of the top motivational speakers in the world, but she is much more than that. Simply put: she’s 100% genuine.

Orman is a tireless teacher, faithful friend, consummate confidant and a powerhouse brand—a person who never thought she was building “Suze Orman,” the empire.

She recalls: “I followed the signs, the path and the doors in front of me—and I wasn’t afraid to walk through them.”

In fact, the one-time restaurant employee maintains: “I loved every second of being a waitress. I loved serving every one of those people a plate full of joy. I loved every moment of every day.”

She also celebrates her bygone eatery days by “the love that I had for the life that I had, not the life I dreamt of having.”

How many of us can say that?

Clearly, businessperson Orman had the elusive “it” and served it up on a plate. “It” eventually served her—and countless financial information seekers—right back.

As a result, it’s hopeless to avoid Orman’s razor-sharp, personal focus—and one would be a fool to try.

As expected, her various comments explored a litany of extraordinary self-help topics:

  • “People First. Then Money. Then Things.” (I certainly know that one.)
  • “Who you are and what you have are synonymous.” (I agree.)
  • “Always do what is right, rather than what is easy.” (I try to.)
  • “Every new moment you spend with anybody and anything has to be a new moment and not just a recreation of the past.” (I never thought of it that way.)
  • “When we deflect a compliment onto someone else’s greatness, we are denying ourselves the greatness we deserve.” (I inadvertently “deflected” and found myself on the receiving end of one of her patented—yet glorious—Suze smack downs. A memory I will always treasure.).

It would be easy to say that Orman is a force of nature, but nature is nothing if not unpredictable. Or is it? Especially when one considers the power of human nature.

Take a look at the trajectory of Orman’s career and one can’t help but wonder: do the interests and qualities we display in our youth offer an even stronger glimpse into our future than we realize? Even those like Orman who, despite being blessed with “it,” have doubted their intellectual abilities?

As a child, Orman dreamt of becoming a brain surgeon. When her high school transcript didn’t support an educational focus on medicine, she chose to pursue social work. Either way, a young Orman seemed intent on getting inside other people’s heads—a goal she clearly managed to achieve.

Included in the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics is an entry that seems to have followed Orman from the classroom and into her multi-media spotlight: “Social workers respect the inherent dignity and worth of the person.”

Orman agrees: “If you define a social worker as one who wants to work for the good of all human kind, then yes, I am most definitely a social worker. You cannot teach somebody net worth unless they value their self-worth. Money flows in through your hands and flows out through your hearts.”

Randall Kenneth Jones and Suze OrmanWithout question, Suze Oman is also the most intuitive person to ever take up residence in the interview spot opposite mine. There’s no better example of her penchant for curiosity—and subsequent intuition—than her trademark skill with questions.

Orman is intent on understanding “you” first—your methods and motivations. Her voracious line of questioning flows naturally until she is satisfied your truth has been exposed. Why? “One can never fix a financial matter with money,” she advises. “Always speak in truths, rather than in words.”

After all, in Ormanland, “Money has no sex, no race, no religion. Money is the universal language of the world.”

Money demands truth.

Even her answers can come in the form of questions. As with anyone who stands before her knows, Orman wants to challenge us to think, not just listen.

Questions demand thought.

With facts, experience and tough love as her weapons of choice, Orman gets to the heart of the matter. In the process, she touches the hearts (and minds) of those she counsels.

If, like me, you’re bent on throwing your hat in the ring to speak with (the thought-full) Suze Orman, make sure it’s a “thinking cap”—she’ll accept no less than your best effort, and you can absolutely expect the same in return.

Randall Kenneth Jones photo by Kevin Randall Jones

Marketer, publicist, business humoristprofessional-courtesy advocate, branded-content writer, creative-development consultant, and entertaining motivational speaker Randall Kenneth Jones is the creator of and the president of MindZoo, a marketing communications firm in Naples, Florida. 

Special thanks to Maribeth Jones, Bachelor’s of Social Work candidate. Graduation: May 2015, Florida Gulf Coast University.

Photos: TOP — Suze Orman (photo by Sean Lee Davies); Photo 2 — Randall Kenneth Jones and Suze Orman (photo by Dawn Larsen); BOTTOM — Randall Kenneth Jones (photo by Kevin Randall Jones).