THEN AND ONLY THEN, INTENSITY.
- by Gillian Stovel Rivers, MA, CFP®, CEA
- October 24, 2022
In my April edition of The Surroundup I laid out the CrossFit Charter: Mechanics, Consistency, Intensity. Once we have the basic mechanics of movement – or in our case, wealth – defined, that’s when we can identify and practice skills which, when executed with consistency, will help us create wealth.
In the July Surroundup, we moved on to investigate how important Consistency is with both habits and mindset when it comes to wealth creation as well. I challenged readers to choose wisely when it comes to the stories we tell ourselves, because the neural pathways we develop from repetitive thought patterns can literally make or break nest eggs and fortunes.
This month, we reach the third stage in the CrossFit charter: Intensity. And what a moment in history to explore this concept, when it seems like we are regularly tested, again and again with maximum pressure in this cyclical renaissance called interest rate normalization. First, let’s examine how the charter defines intensity.
The CrossFit charter defines intensity “not as an absolute metric but rather as an effort that is relative to the physical and psychological tolerances of each individual. Further, fitness is defined as a long-term endeavor. Intelligently balancing safety, efficacy, and efficiency is essential to long-term success.” Intensity is also not linear in the long run. At first yes, we need good mechanics, then consistent movement patterns before we can add more aggressive speed, height, or load. Translation? Intensity when it comes to wealth is also linear at first, but it is in fact cyclically iterative over the long run. Allow me to explain.
Someone new to wealth building has accumulated some funds for investment by way of sound accumulation mechanics executed with consistent habits and a clear and focused mindset. They decide to invest the entire sum at maximum intensity hopeful that markets will always go up, only to immediately experience the disruption to both stock and bond markets as we have in 2022. Were they physically and psychologically capable of withstanding this level of intensity? Probably not. Will they survive and prosper? It all depends.
If they have time on their side, they will likely chalk it up to experience and log this first experience as “oh, so this is how investing feels.” And what they do next will define their capacity to build wealth forever. If they do not have time on their side, the feelings around this experience can be intensified by the fight or flight concepts we talked about last time, and what they do next is even more critical.
In both cases it cannot be stressed enough how important it is to unwaveringly maintain their mechanics and consistency. Maintain the strategy, maintain the habits and the mindset, and adjust the intensity at the end of the round.
Overheard in just about every client meeting so far this year: “I have been anticipating the normalization of interest rates for my entire career”, a career that spans a length of time of nearly 20 years where bonds represented proportionately more risk than they did traditional stability and utility. We knew it would happen someday, and the events leading into 2022 made it inevitable.
Yet would we rather experience the intensity we cannot control of 14%+ inflation for an unforeseen period of time into the future? Or can we instead keep slugging it out to the end of this round, knowing that when we get there, purchasing power order will be somewhat restored? The latter is what central bankers the world over have decided for us all.
Our portfolios were mechanically ready for this advent, and are making the necessary adaptations to your holdings as we cross over to the new world where once again, bonds are useful tools to add stability and income even when equity markets correct. A world where bonds have fully regained their utility for adding conservatism to portfolios sounds like it might just be the ideal time to adjust your investing intensity. And we are almost there. But this is the proverbial end of fourth quarter, the 18th hole, the last set in the match. No Tom, Tiger, Serena, or any other greatest of all time would change their mechanics or consistency. Nor should we.
Feeling exhausted by a level of financial intensity out of your control? Here are some things clients have shared with us to help them refocus:
- Explore the value of other assets you own besides your portfolio, such as art or collections for example. Are there steps you could be taking to value, protect, transmit or perhaps even sell at an appropriate time?
- Be mindful when and how much financial news you consume. If these things keep you up at night, treat it like caffeine and cut yourself off from taking in any more of it after 2pm. No financial news should change your mechanics or consistency.
- What other wealth matters have gone unattended to because of procrastination or even COVID? The most common discussion we have about wills is “I’ve been meaning to get to that.” This would be a good time to hunker down and do it. We can help.
- Revisit the places you spend money that give you the most joy and utility, to the least. Clean house on the expense side of things – it feels so good to save even just a few hundred dollars a year by cutting services you don’t need or use.
- Remember the cyclical big picture. Clients of Surround have a clear picture of where they are going financially. When this bear market ends, life will probably look a lot like it does now. That’s because of the soundness of the big picture. Same mechanics, same consistency, perhaps with a few course corrections on intensity when the time is right.
In closing this month I’m recommending one of my source videos on YouTube I recently came upon with Steven Kotler. What is Flow? Peak Performance Explained examines what we now commonly refer to as Flow. Flow is what intensity ought to feel like when the mechanics and consistency have been raised to a level of mastery, but it comes at the price of breaking some things to get to that place: rules, bones, and other people’s records, to name a few. I hope you can find the time to watch and enjoy this exploration of ultimate human performance in action-adventure sports and business.
For links to some of the articles, videos and source materials that inspired this blog, see below. If you want to chat about wealth, CrossFit, neuroscience, positive psychology or anything that truly inspires you, give me a call. I’d love to connect.