The Surroundup


  • by Gillian Stovel Rivers, MA, CFP®, CEA
  • July 27, 2022


Gillian running

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.

Humans process information through different neural pathways that form at various time throughout their lives. With consistent repetition over time, certain abilities become automatic. We no longer think about pressing the gas or the brake in our car, it just happens. At young ages these abilities are as physical as they are cultural – routines related to quality and quantity of sleep, food and communication. How two of these basic human skills develop – walking and talking – can give us insight into how we can basically learn anything with the right mindset and consistency. Like building wealth.

Consider walking. Walking is learned by a toddler because they are one hundred percent fine with standing up and falling over repeatedly until they learn how to catch themselves. In CrossFit, this is much like how I approach handstand walking – I have to be fine with falling, this is how I learn. I also have to believe I can do it – more on that later.

Consider talking. Research shows that babies are born with the knowledge of how to talk but only by being surrounded by people who talk with them do they have the opportunity to try to form words and communicate ideas. Consistent attempts without fear of failure or negative self talk are what make success along these neural pathways possible. No toddler ever berated themselves for falling or mispronouncing a word. It’s not in their vocabulary, if you will, because they feel safe and are not being directed to behave by their “fight or flight” response.

There was absolutely a time in evolution where that reptilian “fight or flight” part of the brain had to dominate mature human behaviours in order to escape predators, elements and even interloping warrior tribes. But that was then, and this is now.

Now, thousands upon thousands of years later, I’d like to suggest to you that story has replaced survival. You have to choose your story wisely. Choosing what skill to develop – what neural pathways to develop – is job one. The story you tell yourself while developing a new skill – a positive outlook about your progress – is an incredibly important job too. Together they will in relatively short order, create a consistent habit or behaviour.

Don’t get me wrong, in many cases pessimism sounds smarter and more plausible than optimism. But none of us can tell the future, so like anything out there, it’s also just a story. But knowing what we know about the brain and how persuasion actually works, pessimism is simply a limbic system hack designed to get clicks, sell pacifying substances and create unhealthy dependencies. Pessimism breeds insecurity. And it’s guaranteed to prevent you from living a connected, joyful, purposeful and comfortable life.

Feeling insecure? Here’s a quick and easy neuroscience ritual that overrides the limbic brain: write down 5 things that are currently working in your financial favour.

For example –

  • I am great at saving
  • I know how to earn money
  • I have great advisors on my side
  • I live in a house that I own
  • I have a clear picture of where I am going financially.


If all you did was write out your personal 5 things every day, even if they changed, you’d override that part of our brain originally designed to make sure we escaped the jaws of prehistoric predators. Turn it around with a simple daily habit to control your own brain. You are the predator you are NOT the prey.

Next thing you know, you’ll be walking on your hands 😉.

For links to some of the books, videos and source materials that inspired this blog, see below. If you want to chat about wealth, CrossFit, neuroscience or anything that truly inspires you, give me a call. I’d love to connect.


The Psychology of Money, by Morgan Housel

Mechanics, Consistency, Intensity: What does it mean?

Lessons from a Life of Leadership | Marshall Goldsmith | The Knowledge Project #142