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Why we won't take you too seriously

I've worked with a coach, John Dashfield, for many years and he kindly sent me a copy of Steve Chandler's book 'Death Wish'. In it, Steve describes his journey through addiction to 'a glorious life'. Whether you consider yourself an addict or not, it's an interesting read. Steve has a way of throwing ideas out at you that stop you in your tracks and make you reflect on what he just said.

I've been fortunate to avoid the life-threatening sorts of addiction that Steve discusses, but perhaps most of us have suffered from some form of addiction during our lives (overworking, overthinking, over-perfectionism; there's a long list in my case) so I can identify with lots of Steve's story. Maybe you will too.

One trait I like to think that I have under control these days is seriousness. Steve describes the heavy-mindedness that was weighing him down, making life seem unfair. Here's a story from his book;

"One time my friend Dicken Bettinger was mentoring me about a very serious problem in my professional life that I had been trying to solve for months. He listened patiently as I explained the seriousness and complexity of it and when I was finished venting I waited for his analysis and possible solution.

He said, "You look so serious."

I was a little unnerved by that. Was he not listening to my words? Was he just looking at my face? Of course I looked serious. This was a real problem I was describing.

Both of us sat in silence for a minute and I said, "And....???"

"Well," he said, "You don't have much of a chance of solving this thing from the mood you're in right now. This may be an important decision in the context of your business, but you yourself don't have to look so serious about it."

It took me a minute to get what he was saying. Soon I snapped out of my dark mood and started shaking my head and chuckling and he saw me do this and started laughing. In less than three minutes the "solution" to this heavy problem just appeared to me. It just occurred to me. I was amazed."

This addiction to seriousness is something I have observed in many people over the years. Of course, seriousness has its place. Sometimes. But I can't think of very many occasions in my lifetime when it was the only option. Even when faced with the most dire of circumstances - going into battle, say, or conducting life-saving surgery - you will find lightness, humour and playfulness on display.

That's because those traits are not only good for morale, but - as Steve Chandler discovered - they make for better decision-making.

When it comes to decisions about your financial future, it's also important not to get too serious about things. Of course it's important to be going in the right direction, but in the middle of so much information, so many options, and so much choice, it often feels as though you should be doing more to accelerate your goals.

The trouble is, investing is a game that isn't easily accelerated. Now is a time when true investors are buying, not selling, and if you know what to look for there are bargains galore to be had (at the time of writing). But those canny investors know that the returns won't always come straightaway. Sometimes it takes weeks, months, or even years before markets decide that the assets you bought are under-priced. Sometimes, let's be honest, it never happens for any of a multitude of reasons.

So your portfolio will always have some underperformers in it. Indeed, if you are following the principles that we espouse on behalf of our clients, it is designed to have some underperformers in it. It's impossible to be invested always in things that only go up in value and it's naïve to expect otherwise. Markets just don't work that way.

We'll be talking more about our investing philosophy and practice in later blogs. But here is today's investment lesson: If your portfolio is well-researched, well-diversified and carefully constructed (hint: ours are) and you don't need the money tomorrow, then;

Relax, lighten up, and have patience. You might even allow yourself a chuckle. The results will come.


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