“The world is what YOU think of it, so think of it DIFFERENTLY and your life will change.”
― Paul Arden
“Can’t you give me brains?” asked the Scarecrow.
“You don’t need them. You are learning something every day. A baby has brains, but it doesn’t know much. Experience is the only thing that brings knowledge, and the longer you are on earth the more experience you are sure to get.”
― L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
The last several months of “lockdown” has taught me several lessons. It has given me time to reflect on a great many things. It has reaffirmed some beliefs and altered others. It has developed habits and had others perish by the wayside. What exactly did I learn during this lockdown and how can they benefit you? We will take a look at these lessons in this week’s Inside Look at Building Towards Wealth.
Lesson 1- Remembering how important physical activity is: 2 years ago, at the birth of our son, I took off quite a bit of time from work. I fell out of routine working out and eventually fell out of shape and started developing back pain from a previous injury. I was feeling every part of my 43 years.
When the current shutdown started and gyms shut, I took action to avoid this. I ordered kettlebells, added a pull-up bar, and researched bodyweight exercise routines.
The result is I am in as good of shape as I have been since I injured my back in 2015. I have, for the most part, remained mentally clear and focussed through this lockdown.
Try to remain active it will add to mental clarity and a good mood.
Lesson 2- Simplicity is often the best course of action: This ties directly into lesson one. My nutrition is as dialed in as it has been for a long time.
I have done Paleo, Keto, intermittent fasting, and many other plans. Many of them involve overly complicated measuring and eating styles. My solution was to eat 2/3 cup of rice, a portion of veggies, and a portion of a protein for 80% of my meals.
Not only did this save me having to think about my meals too much and save me wasted energy, but it has had a noticeable effect on how I look in the mirror over the last six weeks.
It is easy to overcomplicate life these days when simple solutions will work. You can score just as many runs in baseball by hitting lots of singles and doubles as you can with only swinging for the fences.
Perfect can be the enemy of good. Often a good simple answer will beat a complex perfect one.
Lesson 3- Accepting something to be true even if you don’t want it to be: I enjoy bourbon and beer. Having a drink at the end of a long day is a nice treat. Part of my business has always had a certain part of evening networking attached to it and the accompanying cocktail.
The lockdown immediately ended the networking part of the job. It also made most days at home the same routine. When there was really no difference day to day, other than whether I had a beer or two the night before, I could feel a noticeable difference in my clarity and effectiveness, I knew I should no longer have a drink during the week.
Nobody likes to admit that their body is getting older and they can’t hang like they used to. 21 year old me is shaking his head at me right now.
However, if I want to accomplish all the great goals I have set out for myself I must accept that drinking during the week can’t happen and be ok with that.
It’s ok to admit we are wrong about something and change our course of action.
Lesson 4- You will learn to appreciate things you took for granted: I miss my drive to and from work and to clients. I don’t know of anyone who says they love their commute time for work. I realize now that I miss it.
For me, that was a time to listen to podcasts. I love learning through podcasts, whether it’s to be a better planner to be a better human to be a better business owner. That was my time to listen and learn. I, until recently, didn’t have time that I could listen to them.
Appreciate even the most mundane of tasks in life.
Lesson 5- Turn challenges into opportunities: Daycare for my son recently opened back up. The facility has enacted several well thought out changes to help ensure the health of our children and their staff. One of these was a no stroller drop off policy.
I could easily drive the mile and a half to drop off my son every day. I could also take him in the stroller there and wheel the empty stroller home. Wheeling an empty stroller just always feels weird to me.
Instead, we purchased a hiking backpack for me to take my son to school every day. He and I get some alone time every morning. He is at the age where he loves pointing out bunnies, squirrels, and trucks going down the road. He loves the view up there.
I also get 3 miles of walking to start my day and the walk back now gives me time to listen to those podcasts I love, or to dictate the first draft of this journal.
Every challenge is a new obstacle to overcome and there is good to be found almost anywhere.
Lesson 6 Aligning capital with values is important: I have spoken about this before and I was reminded of this over the last few months.
During the last few months, we have focussed our spending on local businesses. We have been able to support the causes we believe in and the individuals we knew needed help. We have increased our giving because there were more people in need.
It is always positive to align our capital with our values.
Lesson 7 Reminded that our most valuable resource is time: When this started I thought working from home would give me more time. That was the definition of wrong. Between daycare closing, my wife and I both working from home and welcoming our daughter to the world we were both operating at a time deficit.
I felt this myself as even my writing, in my opinion, sometimes suffered because of the lack of focussed time for it.
During this time I have reorganized my schedule to make myself much more efficient. I have hired an intern to help with some of my communications efforts, I stopped trying to do my own website and hired a great company to put it together (launching in late July hopefully). I outsourced additional non-essential duties and have done the hard work of creating additional systems in place so that my time will be more focussed moving forward.
All of this has given me more time with my family and will hopefully reap monetary rewards so I can buy more of my time back and focus on what I love.
Spend your time wisely, it is your most valuable asset!
Lesson 8- Love what you do: I love my career. I don’t know that there has been a time where I had a greater impact on people’s lives than this year. I have had so many great conversations with clients and people just searching for answers.
The last 10 years have been relatively calm. This year has been the opposite of that. With the constant blast of news, who knew murder hornets would be the 12th craziest news story of the first 6 months, it can feel like drinking from a firehose of information.
I have been able to be the calm in the middle of the storm for my clients and I will never fail to appreciate the role I play in their lives. We have continued our focus on the long term and controlling what we can control.
Try to find what that perfect spot of what you are good at, what you get paid to do, and what you enjoy doing.
Lesson 9- Be able to accept we live a privileged life, be proud of our accomplishments, and work to level the playing field: Privilege is something we have heard a lot about in recent weeks. I won the birth lottery. I was born a white male, in America, to a 2 parent household, with loving parents with adequate means. From the current world as well as a historical perspective I won the lottery.
The false dichotomy often presented is that if we acknowledge privilege that it somehow lessens our accomplishments. I can simultaneously recognize I started a step ahead of others through no effort of my own, do my best to maximize my abilities and do my best to create opportunities for people of color.
I continue to educate myself on how to not only be an ally to people of color but also how to be actively anti-racist
I am linking a couple of articles and a book I think are thought-provoking and useful to read in thinking about race in America are The Case for Reparations, Dust in the Light and How To Be an Antiracist.
Lesson 10- The basic tenets of financial planning were proven to be during this time: Over the last couple of years, we have not grown our lifestyle to fit our paycheck despite our paychecks growing.
We have added two children in the last two years and still continue to save rigorously.
We had an adequate emergency fund. This was especially helpful as we had basement flooding and other unexpected costs this year during the financial turmoil.
We have carried no credit card debt.
We purchased a home that was well below what we qualified for. We chose a multi-family building so that it could act as an asset, not just a living expense.
We increased our retirement plan contributions when we made more money.
We adequately insured our risks.
We, mostly, did not spend on things that weren’t important to us.
We diversified our assets.
All of these are basic principles of financial planning and we followed the “practice what you preach” mentality. I cannot ask people to follow a plan that I do not follow myself.
I would say that I am happy these days. There was a story released yesterday, here, that says fewer Americans are happy than any time in the last 50 years. My current state of mind and positive outlook is not any one thing, but really 1000 different small actions, most derived from the 10 lessons above.
I will not act like I did all of this Starting on March 13. Many of these habits, had at least been thought about or started to form even before the lockdown. In the last three months, I was able to execute these ideas much better than I had previously. It is this constant work towards being better that led to the place I am right now, which is pretty happy with life.
I hope you are all are doing well and please reach out if I may be of service.