Climbing Your Own Financial Wall

Hello and welcome to another edition of Wisdom and Wealth. Today I want to focus on a few concepts that came back to me during a recent experience with my family. The more I thought about the overarching parallels of the experience, I had to write more. But before we dive in, please check out our recent Intangible Balance Sheet Episode with Tim Thomason! Also, you can find links to our video and audio version of this newsletter below.

A few weeks back, my kids got to enjoy a rock-climbing wall. My three oldest were able to dive right in. The youngest, not being able to fit in the harness, and being way too young, decided to run off as his way of stretching his limits and my patience! Everyone initially enjoyed the experience. But soon, results started to vary. Everyone was struggling at different rates and varying degrees. And so, this created an interesting family dynamic to say the least for about an hour or so.

As a side note, if you are looking for a child sleep aid, I HIGHLY recommend this activity. To quote my oldest son when he woke up the next morning: “daddy I feel like I got hit by a bus!” This all came full circle the more I thought about things in the days after the experience. One of the kids had a harder time figuring out footholds and handholds, and correspondingly experienced a lot of failure. She got near the top of the wall six or seven times and fell. And it took far more effort than she had anticipated. And the more she tried the more tired she became physically etc.  To add to this, her sister had experienced immediate success and was going up and down at will. My youngest was just enjoying the ride. He didn’t have a plan or a strategy but was completely content to be consumed in something challenging.

I started out trying to be kind of the aloof dad of just having to watch from a distance. I like to think I do a good job of hiding it, but I’m a very competitive person. With that in mind I didn’t want to impose my own strategy onto the exercise and decided to just enjoy watching the kids thought process. Soon myw wife was encouraging me to get in line myself. I couldn’t justify taking away a turn from a kid standing in line, but before you know it, I was closer to the rope and found myself helping give “occasional” instruction and encouragement. The role of chief encourager is fun!  But starting full circle, I think it was about the 10th or 11th time that daughter who was struggling to reach the top, finally made it. The look of pride in the achievement on her face was just priceless. And to make matters even better, she got right back in line and went to the top again a second time. And the second time, she didn’t have any issues whatsoever.

As I walked away from that experience, I told my kids I wasn’t proud of them because of an end result or achievement, but I was proud of them because of their individual effort and grit. They didn’t quit. Next, I was proud of them because they didn’t let other people’s success discourage them or make them too prideful to give their own best. Ultimately, I’ve tried to coach my kids that they are ultimately competing with themselves. Against their own strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies, not anyone else.

So, if you’re listening to this and you’re saying, okay, Josh, that’s great. What’s this got to do with financial planning? I brought away some takeaways that I wanted to share with you!

Comparison to Others is NOT Helpful

I don’t think it’s helpful to compare ourselves to the “Joneses.” I don’t think it’s helpful to worry that we’re falling behind the Joneses. Furthermore, a thought life steeped in envy or fear, robs you of the rewards along your journey that are uniquely meant for you! I don’t think it’s helpful to think that our life will be more rewarding if we have these same experiences and the same name brands and the same things that everybody else has. I find no data to tell me that anyone gets to the end of their life on their deathbed and says, “you know, it just would have been more enjoyable if I would have had:” fill in the blank. You may have heard me say before that managing the seven deadly sins is far more important than trying to outsmart the market. If you can’t manage the beliefs and chaos inside you, you’ll be disappointed with your attempts to manage and make sense of the chaos outside you. So on and so forth. Most of the time, what I have found, what I’ve uncovered is that worrying about things that we can’t control, conditions we can’t predict, only inhibits our ability to make smart decisions and enjoy the present. Why would we make other people’s happiness the benchmark for our own? It is completely unhelpful to compare ourselves to our neighbors and their family and their situation and try to say that the hand that they were dealt is now the benchmark for our own unique, resources, goals and dreams etc.

Humility + Coaching + Progress = The Petri Dish of Success

The next piece that struck me as I walked away from this experience with my kids was that progress, humility, and coaching typically all go together. It’s kind of a petri dish, as it were. Progress often boils down to just focusing on the next step, but having the humility to ask for an outside opinion and further trusting that advice can make a world of difference. Sometimes it even takes an outside voice to help us focus on that next step. I don’t know about you, but I can tend to be distracted by the whole picture, especially when we’re clinging to the face of the rock, the problem or obstacle. We are so close to the limitation that we cannot get any vantage point.  We’re intimately acquainted with the problem, sometimes we need an outside voice to help strengthen our confidence and resolve.

Invest in People, so you can…Invest in People

The next piece that I came away with is that we invest in people so that we can in turn invest in people. Let me unpack this a little bit more. I think it’s easy to see ourselves as investing in companies for a return of principle, a return on investment. In reality, our money that we’re investing in the “market” is with companies that are investing in their people. Those people are in turn able to invest in their products, their services, their training, all these different facets of life that make their communities better and in turn make their organizations better. But that’s all a function of the fact that we invested in a company so that it can in turn invest in its people and invest in its customers. All investment is ultimately an investment in people. We invest there because we want to in turn invest back into our own lives, our own families, our own communities. This virtuous cycle as it is called is one that I am fascinated by and addicted to. I can’t wait to see the outcome that happen because of the way that we invest.

I think that another thing that is more important to me, especially when I think of my own kids, is thinking of ways that I can invest in them and their own learning and their own progression. I don’t think that process ever changes. And the families that I find that are the most content, the happiest, are the ones that continually find ways to invest in their own family in some way, shape, or form. And I used to think that was a novel idea. I used to think that was interesting and unique. And then the more I look at it with my own family and even with young kids, I find that, wow, that’s a job in of itself, finding unique ways to come alongside my own kids and ask them, “hey, you’re interested in,” “I’ve noticed that you’re interested in X, Y, or Z” topic. “Are there things that you wish you knew more about?” “How could I give you the resources or tools that you need to learn more?” I’m finding more and more that the trick to having a fulfilling investment in families or in my own family is simply asking the questions in such a way where I’m not taking over the conversation but…I’m giving them permission to lead the conversation and view me as someone who’s bringing along resources to help them in that process.

Walking away from this experience, I hope that I get more and more of those opportunities to see my family challenged, to see them struggle. I find that we as a society don’t value struggle in the same way that we used to. Struggle is so valuable. It is needed and something that can be a great gift because of the confidence and self-reliance that it builds. The quiet self-confidence that comes from knowing, “hey, I’ve been tested and I’m ready!”

Whenever I lead people in a financial planning engagement, these principles guide the process. The vision you see for your family’s future is unique.  Your plan is for your family. Not for someone else’s. Your needs are going to be different. No one gets to the end of life and says, man, “I just wish I would have beaten the S&P because then my hopes and dreams would have been fulfilled.” Secondly, I hope that people realize that whether it’s in financial planning, whether it’s investing, or any aspect of life, that having that humility to listen to outside voices that you trust can be incredibly helpful. Getting a better sense of the bigger picture from those that you trust is always a good thing. And lastly, we invest in people so that we can continue to invest in people. We invest in people that we trust, i.e. companies that we trust so that we can invest in those that we love with the returns. And this virtuous cycle makes all of it even more rewarding and helpful.

So hopefully you found this topic as enlightening as I did. I’m going to continue reflecting on it as the days go by. If you have any questions or thoughts, please reach out to me via email. Lastly, please like and rate the podcast as this helps us reach and serve additional listeners. As always, remember that we are wishing you continued truth, beauty, and goodness on the road ahead. Have a great day.


This Newsletter is for general information purposes only and is not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine what may be appropriate for you, consult with your attorney, accountant, financial or tax advisor. Investing involves risk, including possible loss of principle. No strategy assures success or protects against loss. A diversified portfolio does not ensure a profit or protect against loss in a declining market. Unless otherwise noted, guests of the Wisdom and Wealth Podcast are not affiliated with CWM LLC.

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