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Week 8: Habits, Fears & the Power of Motivation

By Sam Instone - February 25, 2021

You wake up, now what?

How you start the day is how you win the day.

Your routine, the 'auto-pilot' things you do, what you feed your mind...

All affect your day, week and life ahead.

Ever thought of it that way?

We’ve all had to adopt new habits and routines in response to the unusual circumstances of 2020, and today, I’d like to share with you one of mine.

It’s more important than ever now to create great morning habits that set you up for a successful day.  Tim Ferriss, author of the ‘4-Hour Workweek’, shares his 5 morning rituals.  He says if he does just 3 of these 5 things, he has won the morning.  And if he has won the morning, he has won the day.

I am a big fan of Strategic Coach/Dan Sullivan and recently discovered his ebook 'Deep D.O.S. Innovation'. D.O.S.® stands for Dangers, Opportunities and Strengths, and it underlies Dan’s commitment to really improving the lives of his clients.  It’s been a real game changer for me and everyone I’ve shared it with.

Ask yourself: "What dangers, opportunities, and strengths need to be addressed to get you to your ideal future?"

Perhaps a little uncomfortable at first, there is a great Harvard Business Review article on the topic called ‘Expressing Your Vulnerability Makes You Stronger’.

Turning this upon myself, I decided to start the day by asking myself, “What’s my biggest danger for today? What am I afraid of?” Because dangers are always about fear.

So, really, what I’m asking is, “What’s the biggest danger that if I don’t take action on this, I’m going to be more scared about it tonight than I am right now?”

From there I asked, What opportunity do I have right now?” In other words, what am I excited about? What can I do that, if I took action on it, I’d not only be further ahead, but even more excited?

And, finally, I asked, “What strengths do I have that I can actually reinforce today? What’s an action I can take that will give me more confidence about the day ahead?”

I’ve learned that these are three emotions we all deal with right at the beginning of the day - fear, excitement, confidence.

We’re first and foremost emotional creatures. So the emotions come first; then, we use our brains to figure out why we’re feeling the way we’re feeling.

Ultimately, we always want to take action. It makes us feel good.

Simon Sinek would likely mention the limbic system and dopamine...

Yet inaction is the best thing we could do in times of uncertainty and panic in the markets.

For many, gaining financial independence (FI) or the ability to live off your investments is a tricky challenge.  This phase of life is called decumulation and any planning here needs to cope with volatile market conditions, flawed assumptions, and the fifth law of thermodynamics: grit happens.

It’s safe to say markets have been a bit all over the place throughout the pandemic – bubbles, FAANG stocks, Bitcoin and the fear of missing out, all wreak havoc with our emotions and well-laid plans.

Markets can remain seemingly mad for a long time.  As economist John Maynard Keynes famously once said:

“Markets can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent.”

So, what should you do?

Sensible investing is about remaining highly diversified across markets, sectors and companies to try to smooth out returns as much as possible over time. Maintaining this balance is important – it may not be as exciting as taking a punt on Tesla or Bitcoin, but statistically it will reap its rewards in the long run.

Remember that being diversified means you will benefit from being in the companies and sectors that do well.  In 2020, the developed global stock markets returned around 12% in GBP terms.  Of this 12%, half was attributed to the top 10 stocks.  The FAANGs alone represented 30%.  That’s surely enough exposure for most!

Stick with the plan and try not to look at, or think about, your portfolio too much. Attempting to second guess the market is a fool’s errand.

Being the emotional creatures we are, it helps to have someone keep us in check.

You may have a personal trainer to help you reach your fitness goals.

An executive coach to help you be a better leader.

A life coach to help you fulfil your purpose and find balance between work, family and your future.

Similarly, a great financial planner acts as an accountability partner to help you reach your ideal future. But how do you go about finding the best financial planner?

David Armstrong of Monument Wealth Management shares an article on 'How to (and how not to) search for the best wealth management firm'.  Stop searching for the “best” - the best firm, the best plans, the best portfolio strategy, the best client service. Start searching for a financial planner whose values align with your own.  Who puts you, your family and your ambitions ahead of all else.

To end off, I’d like to share one of my favourite speeches of all time by US Navy Admiral, William H. McRaven. Tim Ferriss mentions it in his 5 morning rituals but I felt it deserved a mention of its own because it’s truly powerful.

If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.  Never underestimate the importance of doing the little things and embracing the fears of life.  You’ll be amazed by how much it can change your world.


To end off, here's a question for you 

Ask yourself - what am I most fearful of?


This week's meditations

"A ship is safe in a harbor, but that is not what ships are built for."
- John Shedd

"The worst thing would be to... look back and think of all the things that one could have tried and could have done and think - why didn't I do that?"
David Bowie

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Have a great weekend and enjoy the ‘light’ reading! 


Tim Ferriss' 'The 4-Hour Workweek'

Dan Sullivan's ebook 'Deep D.O.S. Innovation'

David Brendel for the Harvard Business Review 'Expressing Your Vulnerability Makes You Stronger'

David B. Armstrong's 'How to (and how not to) search for the best Wealth Management firm'

William H. McRaven's speech 'If You Want to Change the World, Start Off by Making Your Bed'