The best teachers make us feel impatient, frustrated, dumbfounded, scared, or greedy.

These emotions are the curriculum for personal growth and peace.

Allowing ourselves to not try to outthink, outsmart, out do these feelings is about as counter intuitive as it gets, yet where the gold lies. This is the grading system: how little muscle can we flex?  How non-violent, non-snarky, non-cynical can we be?

Sometimes these teachers are people, sometimes they are not.

What will the equity market do?  Are valuations too high? How can my child possibly think this is appropriate right now? How can someone possibly feel this way politically? How can my health be taken from me with the snap of a finger?

Using these as mechanisms to learn how to “let go” is the school.

Further, recognizing the power that is gained by letting go, is the graduation. But, the caveat is that this isn’t a traditional commencement ceremony. Letting go takes a lifetime.

This doesn’t make us inactive bystanders. This makes us focused and efficient.  The very antithesis of time wasters.  Often, ‘letting go’ reveals itself in the difficult non-action in our personal and professional lives (i.e. how do I not strangle my kid right now?).  Those moments likely prove to be equally or more important as anything that we ‘do’.

If we want more power over our retirement, our personal lives, our professional lives – we identify and listen to our teachers.  We take the curriculum that points towards more patience – how do we make peace with what we don’t understand?  Somewhere between head in the sand and cynicism.  Not resistance, not escapism.  It’s neither of those.

Further, whatever confirms our belief is often not a teacher, even if we gain knowledge or new data.  That new information is only the special blanket we took to bed as kids.  It makes us feel safe – which can be useful, although not as a teacher.

My greatest teachers:

  • Being a dad
  • Marriage
  • Money
  • Clients

For me, patience and inclusion (somehow we’ve made ‘inclusion’ a political word; I ask that you work to see through that here) are most cultivated when working for compromise and allowing someone to be themselves.  The list above tests me the most.  I say this with humility and gratitude, as I’m sure I represent a test of patience to plenty – I am their curriculum.

No two people feel the same way about money.  Kids are the constant reminder that losing your marbles doesn’t change much of anyone in the long-run.  And any productive marriage begs for inclusion of all thoughts and feelings (i.e. who wants to be told how to feel?).

The last 12-18 months has evoked a different line of questioning since I’ve been in the business.  Cutting my teeth during the GFC as an intern seemed more panic driven, and most everyone felt the same way.  Some of that still exists today with many added layers: a lot of head scratching, and now, even greed – revealed with an increased willingness to speculate with market timing and uneducated investment decisions.

In practice, the lessons and teachers are right in front of us during an ordinary day and easily transferrable to our investing life.  We all know when we’re lacking patience, making decisions in fear, or stretching for that extra % return or saved dollar in taxes owed.  These emotions aren’t useful, but they are helpful.

Because, even in a year of remote learning, class is always in session.

Thanks for reading,

Mitch

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