Bigger Picture, Financial Planning

Trust Your Process

“You must build up your life action by action, and be content if each one achieves its goals as far as possible–and no one can keep you from this. But there will be some external obstacle to acting with justice, self-control, and wisdom. But what is some other area of my action is thwarted? Well, gladly accept the obstacle for what it is and shift your attention to what is given, and another action will immediately take its place, one that better fits the life you are building.” —Marcus Aurelius, Mediations, 8.32

For the last few months I’ve begun each morning with a 10 minute Headspace meditation followed by reading the day’s passage from The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday. If you’re not familiar with The Daily Stoic, each day there is a quote the author translates into modern times and explains how it can benefit the reader. I highly recommend adding it to your daily routine!

The quote from Marcus Aurelius was the focus of today’s reading.

In his explanation of Aurelius’ quote, Holiday references “The Process”, a philosophy created by Alabama football coach Nick Saban. Through The Process, Saban has taught his teams to focus on the little things and ignore distractions in order to reach success–winning National Championships. Instead of focusing on winning the game, players should focus on winning the play. Instead of focusing on getting a touchdown, players should focus on getting a first down. Instead of focusing on earning a starting position, players should focus on giving full effort in practice. It’s the mastery of the smaller actions, that when combined, lead to reaching the end goal.

By getting his teams to buy into The Process and focusing on the smaller actions, Saban has led his teams to multiple championships and many weeks as the number one team in the nation. Athletes tend to mimic the success of others, and the philosophy of “The Process” has been adopted by athletes in every sport, and while it was originally created to lead Alabama Football to National Championships, I couldn’t help but see how the philosophy of  The Process translates to our financial lives as well.

Just as collegiate athletes have distractions trying to derail them from reaching their goals, we have distractions trying to derail us from reaching our financial goals.

Whether it be the talking heads on CNBC, monthly unemployment reports, Federal Reserve minutes, or the circus in D.C., there are plenty of opportunities for individuals to make poor investment decisions. As investors we cannot control the short term market movements reported on CNBC, we have no control over unemployment, the Fed, or politics. We do have control over building low cost globally diversified portfolios, saving regularly, and working with a professional to develop a strategy to keep our emotions under control when markets decline–mastering these habits give investors the best chance at success. History has been kind to investors who focus on the areas they can control, and it has been not so kind on those reacting to the noise.

Distractions do not contain themselves to just investments; they are also present through advertising, social media, and the convenience of one-click shopping. One of the quickest ways to insure falling short on your financial goals is to overspend, and all of these distractions feed the temptation to live beyond our means and keep up with the Joneses–behaviors counteractive to reaching financial goals.

Corporations are after our hard earned dollars, and they are getting smarter with how they advertise to us. It’s no coincidence the shoes you just mentioned wanting are now in your Facebook feed. Not only has social media become an advertiser’s dream, but it also has become society’s avenue of bragging–bragging about the life they have built, or at least the one they want you to think they have built. Either way, seeing others have or do more tempts us to keep up. And it has never been easier to try and keep up because with a couple of clicks on our iPhone we’ve made a purchase–no time to even think about it.

So what are we to do? How can we avoid the distractions and focus on what we can control?

Create Your Own “Process”

By creating your own Process you will know where to focus your attention, which as Aurelius points out, will not only send you down the path toward success, but also help you handle any obstacles that may arise along the way–life will most certainly present obstacles to challenge your Process.

Creating your Process does not necessarily require professional help, but a financial advisor may be able to help you fine tune it. And, while I recommend consulting a financial advisor to help create your Process, I’m going to give you a Blueprint for a hypothetical Process; use this as a start to creating your own–remember to focus on smaller actions you can control. These smaller actions, when carried out, add up and should increase your chances at reaching your goals.

The Financial Process

  • Work Hard
  • Live Below Means
  • Save Money
  • Limit Debt
  • Invest
  • Stay Invested
  • Be Properly Protected (Insurances)
  • Enjoy Loved Ones
  • Enjoy Life
  • Smile

As Holiday points out,

If you follow The Process in your life–assembling the right actions in the right order, one right after another–you too will do well. Not only that, you will be better equipped to make quick work of the obstacles along that path. You’ll be too busy putting one foot in front of the next to even notice the obstacles were there.”

So there you have it.

Follow your Process. Trust your Process.


Recommended Reading: The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday (via Amazon–I am NOT an Amazon affiliate)


Disclaimer: Nothing on this blog should be considered advice, or recommendations. If you have questions pertaining your individual situation you should consult your financial advisor. For all of the disclaimers, please see my disclaimers page.

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