3 Ways To Write Your Own Story, Like Baseball’s Daniel Norris

Originally in ForbesYesterday, a bearded 21-year-old surfer who lives in a 1978 VW bus, and on a self-imposed annual allowance of $10,000, mowed down my beloved Orioles with a 96-mile-per-hour fastball.

Blue Jays pitcher Daniel Norris isn’t striving to make a statement with his apparently Spartan existence. He’s simply choosing to live life according to his priorities. He’s writing his own story.

According to ESPN, Norris’ values system is strengthened by generational ties and rooted in the topography of Johnson City in northeast Tennessee: “Play outdoors. Love the earth. Live simply. Use only what you need.”

The point of this article is not to compel you to adopt Daniel Norris’ values, but to convince you to live by your own. Here are three ways to do so:

1) Know your values.

The challenge to knowing your values is learning how to discern and articulate what’s most important to you without simply parroting a corporate slogan or a Successories poster. (Hint: “Integrity” is already taken.) Most of us, in response to the direct question, “What are your values?” will inadvertently list someone else’s. Consider a less direct, but perhaps more difficult, path to discernment.

Especially if you are a visual processor, glance at this exercise—the Wheel of Life—courtesy of Money Quotient founder Carol Anderson:

Wheel of Life

On each spoke, rate your satisfaction in the corresponding area of life between zero and 10—10 being the best. After connecting the dots, note the roundness or wobbliness of your wheel as a whole. Consider why your satisfaction in some areas is high while in others it might be low.

Now, while ruminating on your reaction to the exercise, write a few words—or perhaps a few sentences—addressing what is most important in life to you. Start with two to five of the areas of life represented on the wheel. The result may be a nicely packaged articulation of what you value most.

If you want to go deeper—or you’re more verbal than visual, or if your Wheel of Life exercise was fruitless for any reason—consider George Kinder’s “3 Questions” exercise. It may be another eye opener.

2) Have the courage to live according to your values.

Truly living life according to your values is not for the faint of heart. It takes courage because social convention prefers efficiency. There are few venues where non-conformity is prized less than it is in sports, and “perhaps nowhere is consistency more valued than in baseball,” says Eli Saslow of ESPN.

Being true to yourself could cost you. It cost Carmen Segarra her job—and likely forevermore limited her prospects in her chosen profession—when she challenged Fed regulators to actually, well, regulate.

Of course, the objective is not non-conformity for its own sake, and definitely not visible self-righteousness. Daniel Norris won’t compromise his conviction not to consume alcohol, for example. But he also doesn’t opt-out of the rookie hazing ritual that involves carting around the veterans’ booze. Originality doesn’t necessarily have to mean unmitigated individuality.

Originality is attractive when it is genuine, but repellant when it is contrived or copied.

3) Outperform.

If Daniel Norris was just another dude living out of a VW bus down by the river, his non-conformist path would be unknown. Having inspired values alone doesn’t make Norris an inspiration. Applying himself to them in an exemplary fashion does.

Via Twitter, Norris tells us exactly how he’s decided to apply his values:

“I live to find 3 things. 1. Eternal life. 2. The strike zone. 3. Good waves.”

My Orioles are certainly aware that he’s mastered at least one of the three. So are his teammates, who have learned that Norris’ unique way of approaching life—and the game—has netted positive results. They may not understand his method, but they appreciate it. Similarly, you will be given more leeway to be yourself in whatever you choose to pursue if you do so with excellence.

Life isn’t a bullet list of values or a spreadsheet for calculating progress toward your goals—it’s a story, a narrative. I hope my suggestions aid you in writing your story, but please don’t confine yourself to my prescriptions. Regardless of whether or not we follow any particular method to discerning our values and pursuing our goals, we’re still creating a body of work. Everybody’s life tells a story. The only question is, Who’s writing yours?

I’m a speaker, author, wealth advisor and director of personal finance for Buckingham and the BAM Alliance. Connect with me on Twitter, Google+, and click HERE to receive my weekly post via email.

Putting Money In Its Place

Originally in ForbesWhat we believe about money will impact how we use it. Unfortunately, a central belief most of us hold about money is fundamentally flawed. We believe that money is either good or bad when, in reality, it is neither.

5-in-1-Tool-Kit-Money-Clip

A belief that money is bad certainly is the minority mindset. But it may be a more dangerous conviction than its inverse, if only because it appears virtuous. After all, how could using less water, less square footage, less medication, less natural resources — less money — be a bad thing? Perhaps because there’s a deceptively short distance between being pro less-[fill-in-the-blank] and becoming anti-[fill-in-the-blank]. And if we’re anti-money, we may also become anti-people-who-have-money, including ourselves if such a circumstance arose.

A friend of mine has a huge heart for people with less — I mean, really less. So much so that he dedicated his life and work to serving them. He regularly goes to the world’s most deprived places, using his powerful combo of empathy, education and experience to rally the necessary aid. Once, when he received a sudden sum of money, I asked him if he was capable of committing financial suicide — by which I meant divesting himself of all the extra decimal places in his bank account — simply because it wouldn’t feel right for him to have such a possession as one so wholly dedicated to the world’s underserved communities. He acknowledged it was possible.

The far more common belief is that money is inherently good. Although this belief appears innocuous at first blush, it’s important to consider its logical conclusion. If money is good, then more money is better. If so, we might be inclined to accept a common lament as true: “If I only had more money, I’d have a better life.” Inevitably, money becomes personified, and thus becomes an unconquerable competitor pitted against the actual people in our lives. In this reality, our friends and family simply can’t compete with money. People let us down, while money only promises to make our hopes and dreams come true.

We need to put money in its place. Specifically:

Money is a neutral tool that can be used for good or ill.

That’s it.

When we believe that money is bad, we typically handle it poorly and strain our relationships. When we believe that it’s good, we tend to put money in competition with people and strain our relationships.

You Can’t ‘Robo’ True Financial Advice

Originally published CNBCThe investing world is a better place, thanks to the advent of well-funded online investment advisory services.

Collectively dubbed “robo-advisors,” companies such as Betterment, Personal Capital and Wealthfront have managed in just a few years to do what the financial industry has failed to accomplish during a couple of centuries: provide quality investment guidance at a cost accessible to most demographics. It is a long time coming.

Adam Nash, Wealthfront’s chief executive, however, isn’t fond of the robo-advisor label.

robo advisor

The Disciplined Investor’s Worst Enemy: Tracking Error

Originally in ForbesLast year was a tough one for disciplined investors. Disciplined investors know that diversification is a key element of successful portfolio management. But investors who stayed the course and remained diversified were punished for it in 2014, at least in the short term.

Disciplined investors will continue to be taunted over the coming weeks and months by headlines touting the success of “the market” in 2014. “Which market is that?” many of them will ask.

Head in Hands

Well, “the market” we hear about most often is the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which represents only 30 of the largest U.S. companies trading on the New York Stock Exchange. A slightly broader barometer of “the market” is the S&P 500 index, a benchmark tracking 500 of the largest U.S. stocks. In this case, “the market” could more accurately be translated as “the U.S. large-cap stock market.”

Stressed-Out Gen X and the Search for a More ‘Livable’ Life

Originally published CNBC“We’re just overwhelmed with life.” That was my response to an attorney looking for insight into the obstacles facing Generation X.

I’d referred a number of 30- and 40-something financial-planning clients to this attorney. All were in need of estate-planning documents.

But he came to me concerned about the difficulty he was having in reconnecting with clients who’d begun the process but were struggling to find the time to complete it. The time to complete anything, really.

gen x stress

While folks of all generations struggle with being overwhelmed by the various responsibilities and obligations of life, I see the problem as endemic within the ranks of Gen X, my peers.

How to Protect Your Biggest Asset–Your Income

Originally published CNBCYou’ve got a machine just sitting around your house. It’s a money-printing machine, and it’s perfectly legal. This machine is expected to print $75,000 this year before taxes. You’ll use that cash to pay your household expenses.

Each year, the machine will print 3 percent more than it did in the previous year, and it will continue doing so for the next 40. That means, over its lifetime the machine will print $5,655,094.48, easily making it your most valuable asset today.

Yet there it sits, maybe in your garage, between an inherited set of golf clubs and a wheelbarrow with a flat tire, unprotected. Uninsured.

printing_money_for_aig_xlarge

The machine, of course, is you, or more specifically, your ability to generate an income. It didn’t come cheap. You and your parents invested years of training and likely tens of thousands of dollars in hopes that your machine would not only support you financially for a lifetime but launch another generation as well.

We don’t question the need to buy insurance for the things our money machine purchases. But few of us know if—or at least how and to what degree—their income-generation engine is protected.

Do you?

The Guide to Happy Giving

Originally in ForbesGiving Tuesday might officially be behind us, but let’s face it—we’re just getting started. The giving season is underway, with the holidays and year-end bearing down on us. So how can we transform one of the more stressful, and sometimes guilt-ridden, elements of the season into something more life-giving?

Gift

Whether you’re giving to a family member, a friend or a cause, please consider the following four directives as a guide to happy giving:

1)   Give out of impulsion, not compulsion. Compulsion to give can arise from the mountain of expectations, perceived or otherwise, heaped upon us at this time of year. (Those expectations are more often self-imposed, by the way.) Impulsion, on the other hand, comes from within. Give because you want to, not because you have to. And don’t give if you don’t want to. 

Business Travelers – Skip In-Flight Wi-Fi To Increase Productivity And Save Money

Originally in ForbesI travel a decent amount. I don’t mind flying, but I’ve always struggled with the loss of productivity. Hours waiting at the airport. Even more hours in flight. But with the advent of in-flight Wi-Fi, I thought my productivity problems were solved. I was wrong.

I’ve instead concluded that by nixing slow and unpredictable in-flight Wi-Fi altogether, we can save money and use flight time to more productive ends (like reading, writing and resting) better suited for that environment.

My initial plan was to use in-flight Wi-Fi to slay the email dragon. That way, I could land knowing that nothing had slipped through the cracks and that there were no surprises waiting. I might even allow non-urgent emails to pile up for a couple days if I knew I had an upcoming flight. Unfortunately, the strategy was a miserable failure.

working-on-an-airplane

A 4-Step Process to Integrating Money and Life

Originally in ForbesOnce you’ve abandoned the pursuit of balancing money and life in favor of integrating the two, the question still remains: Now what? How the heck do I better integrate money and life? Like most personal finance dilemmas, the answer is simple, but not easy.

It’s simple because it doesn’t require many steps. What’s more, it’s advice you’ve likely heard before, perhaps multiple times. But it’s challenging because you have to do some work—interior work. And then you have to make some difficult decisions.

money&life integration

Before I share the process, it’s imperative that we recognize a fundamental financial truth, often shrouded in a sea of marketing, misinformation and self-help rubbish that’s more sales than psychology.

RULE: Money is a means, not an end. Money is a tool—a neutral tool that is neither good nor evil. It may, however, be used in pursuit of either good or evil, and everything in between. Money can be well-utilized in the pursuit of goals, but it makes a very poor, lonely goal in and of itself.

Understanding—and believing and applying—this rule is the aim of the following systematic four-step approach to better integrating life and money: