This winter I was trying to convince my kids to sign up for the local softball league this spring. No way; weren’t interested. This morning as my son and I were playing catch I pointed out that he had a great arm. Actually he’s a natural athlete at most sports; yet time and again I find he is reluctant to try new things. When I asked why he had rejected baseball this spring, he uttered a reply I have heard often lately, “I was afraid I wouldn’t be good,” he explained.
This thought connected with a book I finished yesterday called “How Starbuck’s saved my life.” Great little book. Not only did it give me a fresh respect for Starbucks as a company but the author’s inspiring true story reminded me of this recurring life theme: we have to take personal risks to grow, and some times the very best thing that can happen to any of us is outright failure.
Recently it seems reverberations on this topic have come to me through many different people:
Many investment managers and advisors have failed completely in their duty to protect their clients over the past decade. Many feel depressed and ineffective in their work, and yet to this day, few are admitting their mistake and using their failure to direct a better course. Most are still mumbling things like “timing markets is very difficult,” and “I’m just not that smart,” as if this some how excuses them from making any effort to improve their approach, go back to the drawing board, do further work.
No one achieves perfection in market timing; let’s get over that idea quick. But research shows that just developing a method to capture just 30% of the up cycle and avoid 2/3rds of the down cycle will kick the pants off of passive allocations over a full market cycle. Those who aren’t prepared to put in the work and discipline to develop even a “good” method for this are right to admit it; but then they should also find another career where they can add some value.
People in many sectors are now facing under-employment in industries that are antiquated or over-supplied in this economic downturn. Every week I hear from readers and acquaintances that need to retrain or re-sculpt their career path. Many are now suffering great apprehension and anxiety; most have feared these changes would come for some time. Few have done anything pre-emptive to start the personal growth in advance. Often it seems people need to lose everything first before they can find the will to retrain.
Repeatedly people facing the need for big change will fall back on age, physical limitations, education, class, societal expectations, status—anything and everything that can justify inaction. “Its not easy you know,” is a common refrain. (No one said that it is or should be easy); or “If I can’t do it right then I won’t do it at all.” (Who decides when something is right?); or “I’m a perfectionist” (good luck, then you have failed already because there is no such thing as “perfection”).
Fixation on a sense of entitlement or notional standards of “perfection” is a potent antidote to serious effort and growth. And by the way it is not “easier for other people.”
Everyone struggles with the weight of the work needed to be done. A blank page taunts all who face it. But if we want to write a book, or start a blog, or get fit, or retrain or found a business, we have to start today. Get up extra early if we need to find the time, but get up and get at it. We won’t be perfect. We probably won’t even be good–certainly not at the beginning. But only those that get started are the ones who can become.
Cory’s Chart Corner
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