The pain came back in early April.
At first, it was virtually unnoticeable. A week later, it was still manageable.
By the middle of the month, however, it started interfering with my daily routine.
I could no longer lift my son out of his crib or run around our daughter in the playground.
Even the basic fact of tying my shoelaces became a problematic, painful affair.
Not that I was worried.
I knew what the underlying issue was. And I also knew how to fix it, courtesy of a top-notch physiotherapist.
Five years ago, I literally wobbled into her office, grimacing with pain and feeling like I might never walk again.
Less than a month later, I was back to playing tennis and lifting weights, marveling at how effective 15 minutes of targeted daily physio can be.
Since then, things fell into a familiar pattern.
Maintain the physio routine, feel good. Get complacent, drop the ball on those magic exercises, feel bad.
Reactivate the said routine, feel good again in about two weeks.
But this time, things were different.
No Need For Experts
Over the next few weeks, I doubled down on exercising.
Then, when the pain got worse, I doubled down yet again.
Having been through this before (on multiple occasions, might I add), I knew exactly what the playbook was.
Just like with everything else in life, it was simply a matter of effort and execution.
I’ll save you the gory details. Suffice it to say that a few weeks later, it was my wife who finally short-circuited the whole sorry experience by calling my physiotherapist for an urgent home visit.
The verdict was nearly instant.
No, it wasn’t the same issue as in the past. Yes, the exercises were indeed making the situation much worse, not better.
And yes, yours truly is a stubborn idiot whose unwillingness to seek advice resulted in two months of unnecessary pain.
Winds Of Change
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the world is not static.
Circumstances change. Old playbooks don’t work as well as they used to. A course correction may be needed.
Oftentimes, the only way to figure out the new direction of travel is to engage a (real) expert.
But that’s the easy bit.
You see, physiotherapists get paid by the hour.
If the pain doesn’t go away in a (reasonable) amount of time, you will likely seek another one – or perhaps even opt for a surgical procedure.
Also, the vast majority of issues can be resolved in just a few weeks or months.
But that’s rarely the case in other important areas of our lives, like multi-decade working careers or lifelong investing journeys.
In both of these examples, results take years and decades to manifest themselves. Cause and effect relationships are hard to identify. Hard work matters far less than the direction of travel.
Most importantly, no one gives a crap about your success.
That’s right, despite anything your manager or that glossy HR brochure said, no one cares about your career progression.
At best, your desire to move up the ranks will be a nuisance to them.
At worst, you may become a threat should you actually rise up high enough to compete for those cushy, well-paid senior roles.
Everyone knows the path to the top is littered with corpses. No one wants to talk about it.
Thus, those who do manage to win on the corporate battlefield have pretty much no other choice but to lie about their journey, talking up the virtues of hard work, collaboration, and “taking the long view”.
It’s even worse when it comes to saving and investing.
Here, it’s truly a situation where your financial wins become someone else’s losses.
A retail banker’s worst nightmare is a customer who pays off his credit cards on time, doesn’t use an overdraft, and gets rid of the mortgage ten years early.
Financial advisors don’t make any money selling zero-fee index funds (which is why they don’t sell them in the first place).
Brokerages hate clients who only buy VTSAX once a month. The real margin is in options, meme stocks, and crypto.
And I sure don’t remember the last time I saw a public service announcement encouraging me to max out my tax-efficient investment vehicles. Do you?
Now, you are not totally without help.
There are like-minded friends and colleagues. Online acquaintances with a shared objective.
Authentic bloggers and influencers (yes, they do exist, though the authenticity usually disappears once they have something to sell you).
Perhaps even fee-only financial advisors.
But ultimately, it’s down to you. You are a team of one, and you are also your own coach and manager, agent and auditor.
The good news is that the system for building wealth is as straightforward as it gets.
Spend less than you make.
Invest the difference in passive, low-cost investment vehicles.
Give it time to compound.
But most importantly, don’t get ahead of yourself. If you feel like you need help, don’t be ashamed to ask for it.
They say it’s usually the strong swimmers who drown, usually because they overestimate their ability and go way out in open water without a swimming buddy.
When it comes to investing, you want to be a strong swimmer. But please don’t swim on your own.
Money is hard enough as it is. Don’t make it even harder by trying to hack it on your own.
Thank you for reading – and happy investing.