Because I view myself first and foremost as a financial coach to my clients rather than a financial planner, I, myself have several coaches I pay and engage with on a regular basis. The purpose is mainly to continue to learn about and work on my own human behavior and how I can find ways to increase the amount of good decisions I make and limit the amount and the impact of bad decisions.
One of my coaches is a former Navy SEAL and in his program we work on our lives and businesses in a very unconventional way. We use dynamic environments like the open waters of the Pacific Ocean or the Redwood Forrest as a backdrop to our instruction. He’s even thrown us out of an airplane and off cliffs in order to drive home certain lessons. These situations provide a heightened awareness and allow me to learn lessons quicker and in a deeper way than if I just read a book or took a class.
On one of our excursions last year we camped in the Redwoods for 4 nights. I had never been camping before. Not in an RV or a tent. Not on an air mattress or a hammock. I never ate survival food or cooked anything over open fire. Nothing. No experience at all. In hindsight, that was probably a good thing as I was in for a pretty rough camping experience (SEAL-style…what was I thinking???).
On our second night in the woods, I was instructed to begin to build a “debris shelter” made of dead leaves and whatever sticks and such I could find on the ground. My first question was the obvious, “WHY”? The answer was the obvious, “it’s where you’ll sleep tonight…and make sure it’s waterproof because of the rain”.
As I walked through the woods collecting debris (“MORE DEBRIS” my instructor kept pleading with me) in order to construct a survival shelter, I had to stop and ask another obvious question to “Jack” the instructor. That question was simply, “How do people find themselves in a situation where one would need to build this type of shelter”?
The answer? People get in survival situations due to a “series of small, compounding, bad decisions”. No one (except me it seems) goes into the woods LOOKING to build a survival shelter made of debris. Nope. People start out on a hike…until they aren’t on a hike anymore (by the way…knowing when you aren’t on a hike anymore is the first step to survival!). Usually, this is due to many small bad decisions that add up to a really bad situation. Like what? Here are a few:
- Not knowing the land you are hiking
- Not telling anyone where you are going
- Not wearing the right clothing
- Not paying attention to land markers as you walk
- Not checking when the sun goes down
- Not carrying a way to start a fire
- Not carrying enough water
Now, these are just a few and people who have gotten lost on a hike and survived have all said basically the same thing, “I was just going on a small hike”. No one EXPECTS to get lost. But when they do, they can die. “Jack” told me the number one reason for death isn’t dehydration, animal attacks or starvation…it’s exposure. The elements can kill a human in HOURS and even when the weather isn’t that extreme.
So I learned how to build a survival debris shelter. Building one took 4 hours (let that sink in...4 HOURS). Sleeping in it overnight felt like WEEKS. But in the end I learned two lessons:
- Don’t make small, compounding bad decisions that would lead to this.
- How to make a survival shelter.
Which do you think is the more important lesson of the two? Number 1 of course!!!!
When I am coaching you on your financial life, I am teaching you the same principles. Rarely will one major decision take you out. It’s always a “series of small, compounding, bad decisions” that ruin people. Our job together is to limit the amount of those you make and limit the impact of those that sneak up on you anyway.
Question: Where else can you apply this to your life?
- Your marriage?
- Your health?
- How you parent?
- Other areas?