Updated: Sep 26, 2021
A Manager I once worked for told me, “figure out who you want to aspire to be, and then check out their bookshelf!”. This was a Manager I worked for in the recent past, and one who would teach me the most in the few years I worked with him. I took this advice to heart, and it took me on journey in which I would read dozens of Leadership books, and build my own bookshelf. I carried this quote and analogy into my remaining career, and I shared it with employees, family, and coworkers alike spurring a movement within a movement. In fact, I built a bookshelf that included other topics of interest to me, including technical books for work and all-things-financial. One of my favourite financial books was, “Investing for Dummies, the Canadian Version”. I felt it really simplified the concepts and the process of DIY investing for me, and provided other resources to follow up on. It was the last book I read before firing our Investment Manager/Firm and taking the plunge into DIY investing and ETFs.
I candidly asked this same work Manager, “why did you hire me?”. To which he replied, “I want you pass on to the people working for you what made you successful in life”. At this point I had already progressed to the top of my profession technically. This Manager always seemed to know exactly what to say to motivate people to be, and do, their best. This was something I wanted to learn. His bookshelf was the first bookshelf I took notice of, and I started to collect books and read. Fast forward through 5 Managers and 5 bookshelves at the same company over the last 15 years of my career, I would learn valuable lessons by reading what they were all reading. I would learn a lot of lessons about playing to your own strengths, strategy, building teams and relationships, and employee welbeing and recognition, to name a few. My business and financial acumen also grew as I continued to learn and progress within the company, and I started to see people, numbers, and business targets differently. I began to realize if you look after the business, the business will look after you. Setting goals and objectives would be built into my daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly routines with myself and with my Team. I would keep a top 5 list of objectives weekly towards achieving these goals. I would track KPIs (key performance indicators) religiously to determine how the plan was doing, set targets, and make adjustments when we were off track. I would build spreadsheets to track peer company’s compensation programs, so our compensation programs could remain competetive. I would build spreadsheets that tracked peer company’s production and costs, so I could establish a unit cost for each peer company and chart our cost performance against them. I got so good at organizing information and strategizing that I could predict problems early before they happened, communicate them, and respond to them using the Teams’ unique strengths before anyone else realized they were happening. I did all this to get better, to share the information with my Team, and to show my Management Team and customers we were the best and always striving for continuous improvement. A rolling stone gathers no moss. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made mistakes. You need to learn from mistakes, dust off, and move on. Mistakes with good intentions are usually tolerable. With any success, there are a LOT of little things being done right, and little FEW things being done wrong, to get there. You can totally avoid mistakes if you do nothing, but that will get you nowhere. I am analytical and strategic by nature. These are my two core strengths. Skills can be learned but we all have key strengths we've developed in certain areas over our lives. Where I personally lacked was in execution, but there were others on the Team that were very strong in this area. Things got done through our Teams’ diversity. Diversification fills the gap between seeing the opportunities and getting it done, between starting and finishing strong. Diversification manages the risks of making mistakes. Diversification works with everything, including your financial plan. You have to know your strengths and your weaknesses, and develop both or fill the void with a diversified plan.
So back to the title of this BLOG. “What do you want out of life?” is a relatively simple question that really asks you to consider your goals in life. Goals are rarely achieved if you do not set them, and they are even less likely to be achieved if you do not measure your progress towards them. Goals must be measureable and achievable to be effective. You may (likely) have to move the goalposts for various life reasons, but do not delay in setting goals. Not only do you need to set goals (what you want), but you need to set objectives (how you will do it), a time to complete, and track them. In my career progression the hows were efforts of self-improvement which led to more learning and progression opportunities. Improving your financial situation is very similar to improving yourself at work, though the result leads to a higher understanding of the financial world and increased wealth. Improving your money and investment knowledge (reading books, watching videos, taking courses, talking with like-minded people), building a budget, establishing your savings rates, and investing in low fee products are simple objectives you can set on shorter timelines and dates. Achieving $1MM in retirement savings by 2040 may be the goal? Reviewing expenses, doubling savings rates, reading a book, or finding a mentor might be early objectives. Your objectives and goals need to have dates assigned or you will be less likely to accomplish them.
Today in retirement we still set annual goals and objectives. This year we completed a full condo renovation, and set up our income, expense, and tax efficiency plans for our retirement. We switched to a WFPBNO (whole food, plant-based, no oil) diet and all the learning that went with that. We joined and dabbled in a community garden this year, planting two plots, and they were quite bountiful. We never ran out of tomatoes, zuchinni, and lettuce for months and are still harvesting. We still maintain an annual savings rate which includes TFSA top-ups. We have ongoing health and fitness goals in which the goal is to stay mobile and off pills as long as possible. We have set travel goals and hope to initiate them soon after the covid fears subside, hopefully next year if not earlier. As new goals and objectives arise, like marriages or various home maintenance items, etc, we add to or adjust our annual plans. We try not to sweat the little stuff and keep our goals and objectives meaningful. We keep our goals to a top 5 every year, and we try to look 3 years out. Now that we are retired, our career goals have turned into retirement goals.
I guess the overall moral of this story is, very few gains come out of life without a little bit of thought, initiative, and effort on your part, and setting some goals to work towards. You are more likely to hit a goal if you set it with a realistic approach and timeline towards achieving it. If you can find a mentor, trusted advisor, and/or person to aspire to, it can be a great motivator. The first step is to set a goal and get started identifying steps to get there. Change the goal if you need to but remain steadfast towards it. This approach works with everything in life.