The Strain Resolution

The best resolutions are ones which you’ve already started. Growth is addictive. To have tasted a certain type of growth is to want more of it, so in 2017 I am doubling down on what worked best in 2016. To sum up that strategy in a word: strain.

I learned through experience this year that growth and discomfort go hand-in-hand. When faced with almost any choice, I took the harder option whenever I could.

Three stories:

I.

Josh Brown invited me to speak at the evidence based investing conference, on a panel for Smart Beta. Smart Beta is in my wheelhouse, and playing antagonist on the topic is great (but easy) fun. I asked Josh to instead put me one-on-one with Jim Chanos, discussing short selling.

I am not a short seller. Jim Chanos is one of the most (if not the most) successful short-seller of all time, and certainly the most famous. Jim turned out to be the most impressive fundamental investor I’ve met, with an incredible (INCREDIBLE) command of every topic we discussed. And an extremely nice guy. I have already learned a ton from Jim, and hope to learn more in the future.

It was the first time I’d been nervous for a public speaking event since my first one, at age 22. Being nervous is a sign that you made a good decision. I loved every second of it.

II.

Pride is my sin. I think it’s in my genes: generations of stubborn, competitive, contentious, striving Irishmen. I knew ego was an issue, and that it was my biggest weakness (still is). Ego is the mind-killer. I was used to being the guest on other people’s radio shows, TV shows, and podcasts–which meant it was about me. So I launched my own podcast, to make it (as much as possible) about someone else.

On spring break in Cozumel, 2006, I was walking on the beach and saw a girl I had always had my eye on. A little nervously, I walked up behind her and playfully bear-hugged her. She’s now my wife. Mother of my two kids. Most beautiful, fun, strong woman on the planet.

After that bear hug, the podcast may be the best decision I have made. The lesson: other people are MUCH more interesting than me. I know all my stories! How boring! I can’t learn, or grow, by talking about myself. When I do talk on the podcast, I try to limit myself to ideas and stories which illustrate a useful or interesting idea. I’m not perfect, but I bite my tongue as much as I can.

The podcast itself requires constant strain. Finding new people, reading everything they’ve written, convincing them to come on the show, listening as carefully as possible (Thanks Eric). But it is a beautiful kind of strain.

Books are a distillation of the author’s thousands of hours of learning. A conversation is an even more potent distillation. I am so glad I started doing this, and will work as hard as I can to make it better next year.

III.

The hill.

I live right next to the largest forest preserve in Connecticut. In the morning, I run a four-mile loop through the woods. About three-quarters of the way through the run is the hill. It is vertical, and takes about 1-minute to get up. The hardest I ever run is up that hill, to the point that I taste iron and get dizzy. It teaches me the same lesson every day, one that is easy to forget if you don’t keep teaching yourself: you have more in the tank than you think.

***

The body and mind both serve as a compass for growth. They quickly identify strain…and then incline you away from it. Turns out that by identifying areas of strain for you, the body and mind give you a true north.

In 2017, strain will be my guide. I will listen for opportunities more carefully. I have some ideas already, but I try not to think ahead. Strain should not be planned for. It is of-the-moment. My (ongoing) resolution is to say yes when presented with a chance to strain. I hope you do the same.

 

Thank you for reading, listening, writing, getting together, and being (almost) universally kind. Have a wonderful year.