Thursday, February 27, 2020

Set Yourself Up for the Win

Find the Inspiration

Can someone spend too much time watching curling?  The answer on behalf of all curling enthusiasts is, “Heck no!”  For most diehard curlers, playing the game is even better than sitting back and watching it.

Incredible inspiration comes from seeing this game of strategy play out on a sheet of ice with rocks and brooms.  There’s a keen resemblance between the sport of curling and the achievement of dreams.  I was excited to watch the Manitoba rink, with Skip Kerri Einarson, win their first National Title in the Scotties Tournament of Hearts this past week.  When you look at the efforts of the Einarson Team, you saw heartbreaking setbacks, missed opportunities, and undeniable successes.  All in the game of curling.

The accomplishments of this curling team and your goals, dreams, and aspirations are achieved by knowing how to set yourself up for the win. I checked with my clients whether their financial plan made a difference. They shared the plan helped them save more money and be more mindful of their spending.  The best comment was, “It has been challenging to save the extra money at times, but I am sticking with it.”   Sticking with something is hard work.  To win a National Curling Championship is hard work as well.  You must prepare yourself physically and psychologically.    

If we wish to fulfill a dream, anything in life that challenges us is worth doing.   Like Booker T. Washington said, “Nothing ever comes to one that is worth having, except as result of hard work.”  That’s exactly what spectators witnessed with all the teams curling in the Canadian Scotties Tournament.  This is exactly what you can expect when you put together a plan to achieve your dreams.

Picture the Perfect Eight-Ender

In curling each player on the team throws two rocks (stones). When all the team’s rocks strategically land in the house (without any opponents’ rocks), they score a perfect eight-ender.  That’s what we plan to do here.  We will examine the perfect eight-ender that will rock our financial goals.

1. Set Goals.  We need to set out our expectations in black and white.  You could see the importance of this playing out in the game of curling.  A curling game is divided into ends much like an inning in a baseball game. Each team has either eight or ten ends to achieve a win.  Mapping out a financial game plan sets ourselves up for a win.

2. Practise Patience. Patience is a requirement in virtually anything and everything we do.  How many times have you heard, “Patience comes to those who wait”?  We often expect things to happen instantaneously, but seldom does it work that way.  In the game of curling, a team throws eight rocks each end.  When it is all said and done in a ten-end game, a team delivers eighty (80) rocks from one end of the house to the other.  The outcome of the game cannot be determined from the start and neither can the process be rushed.  The same is true when we are saving money gradually for something we want to achieve. Slow and steady wins the game.    

3. Create the Best in Every Situation.  Each curling end may have its share of struggles and opportunities. Certainly, every rock may not always be placed precisely where we intended.  When we compare a curling end to a year based on financial outcomes, we, too, may have years with unforeseen struggles and opportunities.  The key is to do the best with whatever has been thrown at us.  This poses the need to have emergency savings in place, insurance coverage for the what-ifs, and a manageable budget to balance both struggles and opportunities. 

4. Pick Your Priorities and Make Hard Choices.  We previously spoke about the importance of goals, but our goals need to be put in order of priority.  What do we want to achieve first when we can’t possibly do it all?  That’s hard. Sometimes, we may need to give up something now to capitalize on something later.  I look at some curling ends when a team conceded a point, only to be in a better scoring position in the next end to score more points.

5. Play as a Team.  The most impressive efforts occur when a team plays effectively together.  The Manitoba rink has a wonderful relationship. Their communication was the driving force behind their success.  In some ends, when they talked less or not at all, then the outcome was disastrous. Certain things can be done in isolation, but for the most part, teamwork produces remarkable results.  Whether you are single or a couple and are attempting to achieve financial goals, you need an active support network.  Others’ encouragement prompts you to keep going when the road gets hard.  Talk. Talk. Talk. This technique is the pinnacle to any win.  Did you notice the teammates talking about the strategies between the stones thrown?  They were constantly planning the next move. The encouragement to the sweepers the shouts of, “Hurry hard” or “Sweep” were relentless.  Can you imagine having people in your corner shouting, Great job!  You got this!  You would feel like you were sitting on top of the world with the ability to achieve anything with the backing from your encouragers. The next important pillar is what you and only you can control, your mind.       
6. Stay in the Zone. I can think of three D’s (no doubt there are more) which stifle performance.  Distractions. Discouragement. Disappointments.  At the Scotties, the curlers face overwhelming media attention, noisy chatter and cheering from the spectators, and activity from the other sheets of ice.  When the curlers played, they required a keen focus on their game to secure a win. They must keep all distractions at bay as if they don’t exist.  Any discouragement must be released after a bad end.  Any evidence of disappointments in their team performance must be pushed aside and discarded.  We can learn from them. Our minds are prone to wander at the best of times. But it’s not only our minds, our eyes and hearts do an exceptional job of leading us astray from our financial goals.  We must stay in the zone while we zone out everything around us.  That can be difficult.  Why-wait-when-you-can-have-it-now screams at us every time we watch television, look at our phones, or open a newspaper.  We need to remain fixated on our written financial goals. (This is our rock-solid foundation).          

7. Acquire a Coach.  Mastering the game of curling can be likened to mastering the game of finances.  The terminology in curling can be daunting. Terms, like house, rings, or the button, may mean only the obvious if you are new to the game. Likewise, with finances, investments like RRSPs, TFSAs, and RESPs may be foreign to you if someone didn’t explain them.  A coach (or teacher) broadens your understanding of any game, as well as, presents unique strategies to help you play your best, and even sets you up for a win.  At the Scotties Tournament, often the coaches were called onto the ice for consultation to plan the best strategy in tough situations. This truth applies to financial experts who are consulted to share their expertise on our unique financial circumstances.  A coach comes with fresh eyes to shine light on the blind spots and advises accordingly.  From here, a team effort (both advisors and clients) agree on a suitable strategy.  A coach’s expertise provides us with the confidence to make the right decisions.    

8. Have fun. The one aspect everyone appreciates about curling is the “fun”.  You would never curl if you didn’t enjoy the game.  Also, you wouldn’t watch the game if you didn’t understand it.  No two games are ever alike.  It’s because the sheets of ice are never identical; the weight (the amount of force each player uses to deliver the rocks) is different, and obviously, the strategies implemented by each skip are unique. Curling can be frustrating, as well as fun, when you attempt to secure a win for the team.  Managing our money can be equally challenging and fun.  Money allows us to pay our bills, feed our families, and enjoy the simple (and even the exotic) pleasures in life. Striking a balance between our needs and wants is indeed a challenge.  When we set ourselves up for a win, we can enjoy both.

Formulate a Game Plan

Any time we venture out to learn something new, we face a steep learning curve.  The one stipulation would be to understand the rules.  Then we can adapt a plan to achieve the goal of mastering and managing the outcome.  Take, for example, everything we witnessed at this week-long curling event.  Some teams went home empty-handed while only one team secured the ultimate win.  The other provincial teams will be back next year.  They haven’t surrendered; and they certainly don’t feel defeated.  They played their best at the national level.  They arrived at this junction because of their hard work. You, too, will arrive at your destination with the right strategy and knowledge.

When you have a game plan, take a shot at your financial goals.  Allow yourself to be flexible and adjust to the conditions.  With the right rocks in play, you are setting yourself up for the win. What’s the one thing you can do today to make this happen?    

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Where to Begin

Steaks and Stems Producer Appreciation Night, Yorkton, Saskatchewan

Where to begin? 

Within the allotted timeframe of one hour, Elaine Froese, a Farm Family Business Coach, delivered a wealth of practical insights about finding fairness in farm transition to a banquet room filled with farm families and advisors. I would have been disappointed if I hadn’t hear Elaine speak.  It’s a struggle to condense her presentation, jam-packed with useful information, into a brief commentary…but it’s also reassuring to know anyone can access her valuable resources from her website. 

Right off the start, Elaine tied the importance of communication to action. Ironically, she referenced one cuisine served for the banquet meal and instructed her audience that the first step in making cabbage rolls (holubtsi) is to cook the rice.  You can talk all you want…but “Talk doesn’t cook rice.” This is especially true in a farm transition plan.  When members of the farm family openly share what F.A.I.R. looks like to them, then they are likely to find fairness in the farm transition. Elaine explained in detail about the importance of Financial transparency, Attitudes, Intent, and Roles (the acronym for F.A.I.R.).  For all of us, her online resource, Finding Fairness in Farm Transition, is extremely helpful.

During her presentation, Elaine shared several catchy coaching phrases.  (It’s comical and coincidental that Elaine’s last name, “Froese”, is pronounced as “Phrase”).  She has written a captivating blog called, The Froese (Phrase) That Pays.  One memorable message, which isn’t penciled on her list, but was part of her talk, is  “Someday is not a day on my calendar.”   Honestly, this message stresses the dangers of procrastination.  When we wait for that elusive “someday” to occur, an unexpected event may transpire before that day, wiping away and shattering any hopes of an anticipated dream or goal for our families and ourselves. Her advice is to change our approach about stating “I should”.  Here’s her example.

“Counselors use a term “don’t should on yourself”. Rather than saying, “I should talk to my son and his wife about their vision for this farm”, say “I am going to start having conversations about what is working for our family farm team, and what needs to change.”

At the Steaks and Stems Producer Appreciation Night in the city of Yorkton, Elaine posed this question, “What are your deepest fears?”  The audience could secretly respond with a text message to her cell phone.  Fears are real; and the natural inclination would have been to share them.  But at this event, her cell phone remained silent.  This was unlike a previous event when Elaine spoke to Alberta farmers who did not hold back.  Sometimes, we suppress our fears and prefer to put them on “ignore” rather than face them.  We know that’s not the ideal solution.  So what is?

The first step is to simply begin with the right toolsI often share my favorite quote: “Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right’. Start where you stand and work with whatever tools you have at your command, and better tools will be found along the way.”  It so happens Elaine’s website offers a free Farm Family Toolkit filled with useful tools (documents) to help families communicate better and grow stronger on their farms. A great ending to one’s farm family story is a successful transition to the next generation. Let’s begin.