Escape the Rate Race- 5 Lessons from Usain Bolt

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As I write this post, Jamaica and in fact the world is slowing its pace if not coming to a complete halt to look on in absolute pride and awe as the living legend, Usain St. Leo Bolt gears up to run his last 100M race on home soil. This now legendary Olympian and dare I say the greatest athlete alive started out a boy from the little known town of Falmouth, Trelawny with a population of just over 8000 in one of the smallest countries in the world. I will attempt to recap a few of his list (non exhaustive) of achievements to date:

  • eight time Olympic Gold medallist
  • first person to hold both the Olympic 100M and 200M world records 
  • eleven time World Champion
  • broke the 100M and 200M world record twice each
  • part of the world record holding team for the 4x100M
  • awarded the IAAF world athlete of the year, track and field athlete of the year and Laureus World Sportsman of the Year four times 
  • #63 on the list of the top 100 earning athletes for 2016, with estimated earnings of $32.5M USD

I could keep making bullet points of achievements but suffice to say this is an extraordinary man from at best, ordinary beginnings. This is a man that has escaped the rat race both literally and figuratively.

When I look at Usain’s story, I see many parallels with the path to success in any endeavor. For those of us trying to achieve financial independence and break free, it can seem like such an uphill task. Oftentimes we wonder if it is even possible to achieve our goals. Many of us grapple with our lives feeling unhappy and at a disadvantage because of our less than ideal beginnings. Here are some lessons we can take from Usain’s journey:

Assess your skillets, focus on your core strength. Begin where you are with what you have– Usain used his God-given talent and started training from an early age, often with less than ideal equipment and facilities. Many times we think, I’ll start saving when I get a raise. However, it is important to know that we have to master a little before we get a lot. What skillsets do you have that you can leverage right now? Can you paint? Do you make really good natural juices? Can you build really cool webpages? These are all skills that you can tap into right now. Do not wait for some future time when circumstances are ideal. Begin now. Usain started out playing cricket until his coach identified his speed on the pitch and channeled him into track and field. Knowing or finding out your areas of competence will help you at being great at what you do.

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Have fun, choose happiness– You can tell from Usain’s disposition on and off the track that he truly enjoys life and tries to maximize moments of happiness. Why do we go around moping and stressing as though we have all the cares of the world on our shoulder. A colleague of mine, who happens to be one of the most inspirational persons I know gives his formula for happiness as: happiness = expectation – reality. Reality he says is really just your perception of what is real. So, being happy in life is a matter of either adjusting your expectations and improving your perception of reality. Therefore happiness is a choice. There have been many studies done on the concept of working in a state of “Flow”. Flow, the state where we feel in command of what we do, execute tasks effortlessly, and perform at our best, was discovered by researchers at the University of Chicago. They asked a wide range of people, “Tell us about a time you outdid yourself — you performed at your peak.” No matter who answered — ballerinas, chess champs, surgeons — they all described the characteristics of the flow state. One of flow’s best features: it feels great. Making the choice to be happy with the work we do will set us up to be more productive and feel more fulfilled.

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Put in work– Despite his fun and antics, when it is time to work no one puts in more in training than Usain. He leaves it all on the track everyday during his rigorous training routines. As the saying goes, the only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary. We often look on at persons who have achieved financial success and dream of having the same results and the fruits of success, but we don’t realize the amount of energy and effort expended in getting there. There is no going around it, if we wish to achieve financial freedom, we must get into the habit of working and being productive in our endeavors. I recommend getting into the office just one hour earlier each day. This will give you an additional 5 hours per week. in a year thats 250 hours or over 6 work weeks of increased output. Do you think you can accomplish more if you had an extra month and a half in your year? Could you make more commissions? Finish more projects? Earn that promotion? This is just from one little one hour change. What more could you achieve if you tweaked other areas of output.

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Don’t focus on others; run your race– People anticipate the moments before Usain’s race perhaps as much as they do the race itself. His superior focus and display of confidence shows a defiant man charting his own path, self assured that the medal at the end of the track is guaranteed for him. He is not concerned about his opponents, the naysayers nor anything that will prevent him from crossing the finish line first. In fact he often comes from behind to close the gap and win. In our daily lives we are so concerned about what other people are thinking, saying and doing. We often make perilous decisions based on how we believe people will react to our choices. Of course we must upgrade our cars at least every three years. How else will people know we are doing well? We absolutely must go shopping at least twice per year. I was quite shocked when I read a recent article highlighting that it was revealed by former First Lady of the USA, Michelle Obama that President Obama, wore the same tuxedo to every state dinner for the past 8 years. If the leader of the free world can recycle his suit, why do we need to look “fresh” at every “turn up”? We are literally going broke trying to look rich. 

                                                         

Build your network- For a man from humble beginnings, Usain has managed to create a deep and expansive network of supporters, well-wishers and advisors from whom he can learn and with whom he can share ideas and grow. If we are to be successful, we need likeminded individuals on a similar journey, who will support us and drive us toward our goals. You are the average of the 8 persons you spend the most time with.  Habits are shared, behaviors learnt and results replicated. Look around you. Are the persons you spend time with striving for the same ideals? Are they who you wish to be in 5 years time? Do they motivate you to do more and be more? If not, you may want to make some changes.

Our future is being created daily. It is our duty to ensure that when we arrive we are pleased with what we see and whom we have become. It is not enough to merely exist and pass time. We should strive to become the best versions of ourselves. Bring your talents “to the world”.

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Creating your investment portfolio

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Now that we’ve decided to take the plunge into creating our very own investment portfolio, there still remain some unanswered questions: What should my first step be? What assets should I include? What external factors can affect my portfolio’s performance and how can I reduce this exposure?

We will seek to answer these questions as you take the proverbial ‘first step’ on your investment journey.

 

What should my first step be?

DIY projects can be fun when you’re painting your room, or trying to sew that fancy outfit. But not so much when handling your financial goals and dreams. Once you have made the conscious decision to create your investment portfolio, you should consult an experienced professional. Investment firms are usually the best place to look, as they have teams of persons who specialize in various areas of the investment process and are able to guide you along your investment journey. Leaving your financial goals to chance is not the most judicious approach to financial independence. While your portfolio is being professionally managed, it is still important to ensure you understand the recommendations, decisions and transactions carried out by your investment manager. It helps. Trust me.

 

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What assets should I include?

Simply put, financial assets are tangible liquid assets used as a store of value, or to generate some level of income. These may include stocks, bonds and money market instruments to name a few; each with its own unique characteristics, risks and income potential. The old adage “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is an important technique of investing (known officially as diversification) and one which may be essential to your portfolio’s success. It can be very tempting to want to invest only in high-yielding assets such as stocks, or bonds but it is more important to create a balanced portfolio of assets. With a balanced mix of assets your portfolio will be better able to withstand changes in market conditions such as changes in interest rates, inflation or even a change in government. Ideally your portfolio should include each of the major financial assets, however how much of each will be determined by your risk profile and financial objectives. For example a conservative person-one who prefers stability should not invest heavily in volatile assets such as stocks. Also, someone saving for a long-term goal such as retirement should have little or no cash within the portfolio because of the marginal returns it generates.

 

What external factors can affect my portfolio’s performance and how can I reduce this exposure?
We have no control over when it rains; what we do control however is if we get wet. We plan for eventualities in many areas of our lives-we have motor insurance if we have an accident, we have water tanks if our piped water supply is interrupted and candles if we have a power outage. So why not do the same for our investment portfolio? We operate in a global marketplace where events half the world away can affect your portfolio’s performance. These external factors can range from political elections held locally to changes in GDP growth in China. No one has a crystal ball (if you do, can I borrow it sometime?) so how do we prepare for an unknown event? Remember that important technique mentioned earlier? Diversification or a having a balanced portfolio will go a long way in reducing the effects of market events. While we cannot totally avoid risks associated with market events, we can reduce it through spreading that risk over various assets. An experienced investment advisor can help you to understand trends in the market and to also identify and interpret signs which may indicate possible market changes, and structure your portfolio accordingly.

 

Creating a successful portfolio is no walk in the park. It will take precision planning, shrewd execution and constant monitoring to get ‘it’ right. I’ve never climbed a mountain, ran a marathon, or won any championships-but that feeling when you get ‘it’ right would aptly compare with any of the aforesaid accomplishments. Take that first step, stay disciplined, keep focused and your financial success won’t end up being the next urban legend. Don’t worry, it’s not rocket science. Or is it? See you next time.

Blessedinvestor is a co-author/ contributor on financiallyawake.com. He is a certified Personal Portfolio Advisor with approximately 8 years experience in advising clients on optimizing their investment portfolio.

Investing is fun. Right?

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At first sight this headline may ignite curiosity, skepticism and for some it may sound even a bit crazy. But it’s not. Investing is more than just looking for the highest returns, or sidestepping landmines called risky assets. While those are important aspects of investing; it involves so much more.

Investing can be comparable to an artist who expresses his personality, dreams and feelings through a well-designed and perfectly crafted painting. “Investing is an art” which requires the investor to understand and appreciate his own objectives, style and risk profile in order to translate these into choices of viable investment instruments.

What are my objectives? Too many times investors seek advice without knowing exactly what they want or more importantly what they need. This is tantamount to being lost and asking for directions to an unknown destination. How long am I able to invest my funds? Will I need access to these funds during the life of this investment? Are these funds earmarked for some major purchase? These are all questions we, as investors, must ask before making any investment decision. Investment instruments have varying characteristics and making uninformed decisions can prove disastrous for our financial objectives.

What type of investor am I? Earlier we mentioned understanding your style as an investor. It is important to define and apply one’s style when choosing investment instruments. Just as your sense of fashion/ style determines the outfits you wear; so will your investment style drive your investment decisions. Two individuals may share like profiles in that their investment amount, time horizon, age and even objectives are similar, however their individual portfolio of investments bear little or no similarities. This style is driven by one’s risk profile, which brings us to our final point…

Risk as it relates to investing refers to the probability of lower than expected returns on a given instrument. As an investor your risk profile is determined by both your willingness and your ability to take on the risk(s) associated with an investment. Willingness speaks to the level of comfort the investor feels while ability speaks to how quickly or easily one can recover from any possible losses. The risk profile of the investor will therefore skew investment decisions in one way or another.

The harmonious combination of these variables will ultimately determine our ability to seamlessly achieve our financial objectives. Understanding the importance of each will provide us as investors with clearer insight to the intricacies involved with creating our individual investment portfolios. Being able to successfully incorporate these factor variations to achieve differing objectives can fill an investor with as much adrenaline as a Nascar driver approaching that ineffable checkered flag.

Stay tuned for more as we look further into “Creating Your Investment Portfolio”

 

Blessedinvestor is a co-author/ contributor on financiallyawake.com. He is a certified Personal Portfolio Advisor with approximately 8 years experience in advising clients on optimizing their investment portfolio.

10 Signs You Are Financially Awake

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Sometimes I look around in amazement at those who appear to be taking the proverbial bull that is life by the horns. I used to think that they are super humans; gifted with some extraordinary ability and/ or skill-set, setting them apart from the rest of us mere mortals. Being a naturally curious (read nosy) person, whenever I get a chance to interact with these large and in charge figures, I make it my point of duty to soak up all possible nuggets of wisdom. From my observations and interacting with these super men and wonder women I realize that whilst they themselves have struggles, that they have made certain decisions, which have led them along their path to success. There are certain traits which are common to them all. As a firm believer in the principle that like actions cause like effects, I have outlined below 10 traits of the truly Awake:

i. You make and live by a budget–  Money is an expression of value. When you release your energy into the market place, you receive payment in the form of income. The truly Awake realize that “money is a good servant but a cruel master”. Every dollar earned may be spent on: enjoying life, investment or charity. All three (3) are worthy areas. The point is to have a plan for every dollar earned, addressing all three and to  stick to that plan.

ii. You spend less than you earn– No man ever attained independence or power by spending all he earns. Society, has made it a little harder for us by making it possible for us to spend more than we earn through loans. The truly Awake, ensure that they not only live within their means, but below it. They realize that the only way to give to any charitable cause or to have money for investing is to spend less than you earn. 

iii. You set goals and plan for your future– The truly Awake begin with the end in mind. They develop long term goals, which they break down into shorter term targets and take action every day toward achieving these. As Napoleon Hill stated in his famed and impactful book, Think and grow Rich, “success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal”. Note he made no mention of speed. There is no short-cut. The important variable then is your direction. A constant movement in the right direction will get there.

iv. You are a pupil of lifeAwake people realize that, the difference between where you are now and where you are 5 years from now is what you read/ learn. They know anything can be learnt and invest their time and energy into learning the skill-sets needed to succeed.

v. You surround yourself with positive people– You are the average of the 5 persons you spend the most time with. Therefore to grow, you must be around people committed to growing. Successful people have the uncanny ability of seeking out persons who can fuel their development.

vi. You give your word and keep it– Your word is your bond. In the end all you have is your integrity. The  Awake say what they mean, and mean what they say. To make this work, the Awake are very specific to whom and what they commit. They learn the art of saying no to the less important matters and commit fully once they give their word.

vii. You focus on your health/ fitness– “Mens sana in corpore sano” is a Latin phrase, usually translated as “a sound mind in a sound body” or “a healthy mind in a healthy body”. As internationally known speaker and author, the late Dr. Wayne Dyer stated, “we are spiritual [and intellectual] beings having a physical experience”. The Awake realize that maintaining your health, makes for a much more pleasurable and fulfilling experience.

viii. You are always in solutions mode– Problems are a dime a dozen. Unless you are a diagnostic expert, chances are you do not get paid to point out problems. The market rewards those who bring solutions to the pain points of life. 

ix. You remain positive despite setbacks– With the best of intentions, we all meet upon periodic setbacks. That file you have been working on all day has magically disappeared. Your investment portfolio has taken a hit due to market conditions. That “sure thing” deal you thought you had in the bag, suddenly fell through. The Awake ones amongst us realize that persistence is a must have trait and keep on keeping on even with these setbacks.

x. You genuinely love to help others– The successful and truly Awake person realizes that they themselves are the benefactor of the intervention and assistance of coaches, mentors, supporters and well-wishers along the way. He/she understands the value of this and tries to pay it forward. Life (and the market) has a way of rewarding the “go-givers”. Never become so engrossed in self that you forget to help others.

Investing- with a small amount of money

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You did all the right things: went to school, got good grades, landed that oh so elusive first job and began running on the track toward success. You’ve managed to skimp and save bits and pieces from the morsels you’ve received for your efforts. You have a small amount stashed and lately all this running has got you feeling like Harvey the Wonder Hamster. People often ask questions like: “I have a small amount of money (read $200/ $1000/ $2000/$5000 USD etc), what can I invest in to become financially free?”  Having asked that question myself, scoured the globe (read research/ books/ seminars/ trainings,  countless meetings with financial advisors and several financial missteps), and still being on the quest, I have arrived at a somewhat unorthodox view on the approach to be taken with small lump sums or financial nuts. Below are my thoughts:

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Invest in your self

When you are starting out on your financial journey, the best person you can invest in is you. Instead of looking for someone to give your hard earned cash to, I vote YOU for President of your financial state. Further your studies in an area that will put you at a greater advantage toward earning more. Learn a new skill. I know of several small and part time entrepreneurs who have built viable small businesses from skills learnt in areas such as: graphic design, sewing, carpentry, interior decor etc. Find something you’re curious or passionate about and explore the hell out of it. When you do what you love, you will never have to work a day in your life. Set yourself up for success. Also, you can find inexpensive business options to invest in for yourself. I remember my days of doing network marketing. It was a powerful platform to earn real income. It afforded me the privilege of forming solid relationships, some I hold dear to this day and also taught me the value of focusing on personal development. So, even though I did not become the next Holton Buggs (highest earner in network marketing, earning in excess of $1.3M USD per month), I became a better version of me.

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Pretend like it doesn’t exist

Albert Einstein was quoted as saying that “compound interest is the 8th wonder of the world”. This basically puts forward the view that when it comes to investing, time is your greatest ally. There is a principle called the rule of 72, it basically is used to give a rough estimate of when a sum of money invested at a particular rate of interest will double if compounded. You divide 72 by the interest rate per annum to get the number of years. As an example, if $2000 USD is invested at 6% per annum it will reach $4000 in approximately 12 years (72/6=12years). However, even at a very unrealistic and highly optimistic rate of return like 12% per annum we would need all of 6 years (72/12= 6 years) to turn $2000 into just $4000.  It’s not rocket science then to note that relying solely on a small sum of money as the main source of investment to secure one’s financial independence is foolhardy. So your best course of action is to lock this away into some safe instrument or account and do the following step.

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Take massive action

Jim Rohn, famed American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker is quoted as saying “We get paid for bringing value to the market”. Money is a reflection of the energy you put into the market place. Your greatest resource then when your financial currency is low is to use the currencies of energy and creativity. Think of ways that you can serve a market. What great pain is there that you can alleviate? When you see an opportunity, go for it like your financial life depends on it, because it does! Take massive action. People have met financial success doing many different things. Financial success is in the middle of the town square. The whole matter of success then is less about whether this road can take me there, but rather when will I start my journey. For any path once undertaken with purpose, in the right way and with persistence will take you to the center of town. Seek advice from those who have done it before. If you wish to become a baker, research all you can about baking. What will make your cakes different/ more appealing? Life is also such that if it doesn’t work out for whatever reason, you can begin afresh. Take the lessons and just keep moving toward the center of town. When you are starting out on a new path it is expected that your effectiveness will be low. If you are in sales, you will hear more NOs than YESes initially. Until you have mastered your craft, your only strength then is productivity and action. Make more calls. If you need to make 10 sales to reach your quota and you get 1 YES in every 5 calls, you only need to make 50 calls to be a star. Get moving…

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So to sum it all up, it is a very good thing to begin saving at an early age to benefit from the powers of compounding. However, when you are just starting out and have a small financial nut, the best thing you can do is to keep doing things. Invest that small sum in you and take steps to increase your income. Your real currencies are your energy, creativity and time. Wait until you get to a meaningful financial nut before taking on complex investments. Pretend like this sum doesn’t exist and get right back to working.

What’s your take on investing with a small amount of money? Is there anything you’d like to add? Feel free to leave a comment or query below.

 

Starting a New Year’s Revolution

Happy New Year to you all. Just as quickly as it came, believe it or not we are already 10 days into 2016. I spent the first three days developing and capturing my goals for the year, and as recommended in my article “2015: A year of growth. Lessons learnt” they span all the key areas. In that time I was routinely greeted by questions from friends and associates regarding my New Year’s Resolutions. They like many people, without even knowing it had joined the ranks of the ‘New Year’s Resolutionists’. You know those persons who wait for every new year to wipe the chalkboard of their lives clean and rewrite resolutions in chalk, soon to be erased again for another run at futility. I myself have been amongst the fold. I have had my false starts every January in the gym proclaiming every year as the year I get in the best shape of my life. I have thrown out many supplements and once fresh vegetables that had remained unused. I have justified and renegotiated (albeit with myself) budgets and savings targets to ease the pressures of attempted frugal living. I have conjured up and shelved many seemingly good business ideas.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with this jolt of new year zeal and energy. The challenge is the follow through; the “sticktoitiveness” required to bring dreams to fruition. The world isn’t devoid of new game changing concepts. However, what I have come to realize is that when it comes to ideas, most often it is not the grandest ones that are successful; but rather the simplest ones coupled with excellent execution.

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So to increase our chance of success for this year; what if we moved from making a wish list of things we want, to a firm actionable list of things we wish to discontinue? This way we move from making New Year’s Resolutions to real a New Year’s Revolution. How do you join the revolution? Initiation is simple. I have decided to make a short list of things revolutionists should discontinue doing:

Procrastination: We should never put off for tomorrow what is meant to be done today. I know first hand how dreary working out can be, especially in the initial phases, but you will never get to the destination without enduring the journey. That business plan that you should write, get to it! You’ve been putting off starting school for years, the sooner you start the sooner it ends. That book you’ve been waiting to start writing, pen the first paragraph. By whatever means necessary get started.  The 19th century philosopher and poet Henry Thoreau, put it most aptly when he said “most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them”. Let your grave be a bankrupt account; spend every penny of intellectual capital before you get there.

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Worrying about the future: We should never try to do tomorrow’s task today. Close cousin to procrastination is anxiety. You know those people who are at work thinking about being home with their family and at home with their family thinking about work. When all is said and done they are never really anywhere. There is a reason why we get the year one day at a time. This is because that is exactly how it is meant to be lived. Many illnesses are borne of worry and anxiety. There are generally two types of situations we encounter, those for which we can control the outcome and those we cannot. If you can control the outcome then you won’t worry. So that leaves the uncontrollable outcomes. There are ways to deal with those things you cannot change. When faced with a difficult situation, I ask myself three questions: 1) What is the most likely outcome? 2) What is the absolute worst that can happen? and 3) What would I do if the worst should occur? After taking stock of the situation, I begin to put plans in place to deal with the most likely outcome. Simultaneously, I look at contingencies to address the absolute worst case.  This way, I have ready options and courses of action to take in any eventuality. Do not worry! It will all be ok in the end. If it is not ok, it is not the end.

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Negative Self Talk– We are our own worst critics. In Major League Baseball a batter with a 0.300 batting average is considered to be excellent. What is the point of this reference? A professionally trained, elite athlete is rewarded with millions of dollars in contract payments and endorsement deals; and showered with admiration and praise for getting it right 30% of the time. How many of us believe we get it 70% wrong in life? I am willing to bet that none of you do. However, we have become oriented to believe that we must be perfect in order to be of any worth. Whenever, we make a misstep we berate ourselves and end up causing the worst kinds of mental and emotional wounds; self-inflicted. Woosah… this too shall pass. For 2016, let us catch ourselves each time and nip the negative self talk in the bud.

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Complaining– One thing we do with almost a matching degree of proficiency to negative self talk is complaining. “He is always late to meetings” No person is always anything. In each person is some good and bad, choose to focus on the good. “This job is the worst there is”. Why not leave? You’re doing yourself and your coworkers who wish to be there a great injustice by staying. Go find greener pastures. People who find a problem for every solution suck the joy out of living. The good news is if you are such a person this is the perfect time to change. Leave the complaining tendencies in 2015 and instead focus on solutions.

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Quitting too soon- Anything worth having is worth fighting for. The trick is to be able to quickly assess what is worth having. Oftentimes when it seems like it is time to give up, is really when you are about to hit the tipping point of an idea. Successful businessman and motivational speaker Bob Proctor calls this the terror barrier. As he puts it the very next “cave you fear to enter, holds the treasure you seek”. If you quit at everything, you finish nothing. Life has a way of rewarding those who finish the race.

2016 for me will not be a refresh and forget year. For certain I have made missteps in 2015. However, there are key things which can be applied to the new year. Whilst goal setting is mission critical for the year and for life in general, let us move away from feel good wish lists veiled as new year’s resolutions; let us create a powerful life changing new year’s revolution.

Join in the conversation. I’d love to hear from you. What are some of the things you will stop doing this year? How will you ensure you close 2016 strong?