Sound People Investing

This summer I’m learning about financial investing, the market, economics and how emotional volatility affects judgment in one’s investment strategy.  A basic investing principle is that you find companies that are undervalued, whose stocks are priced below what they’re worth, and then buy their stock—which is ownership in the business–leaving a margin of safety for market fluctuations that occur inevitably.  (Disclaimer: This is not financial advice and I am not an expert.)

Many of us are situated in life in a way that allows us to have input into the lives of others.  This may be because of our positions in the workplace, an organization, a group of people and our families.

I’ve had the privilege for quite a few years to be asked to mentor people in their personal, spiritual and professional self-development.  I don’t ask for this—it’s always a case of being invited into someone’s life and business.  I don’t take it lightly.

I’ve learned some things after doing this a while.  My recent learning about sound financial investing has stimulated my thinking about the kinds of people we do and don’t invest in with our time, talent, energy and money.

What then are indicators of strong value in another you’re seeking to mentor?

  • Strong work ethic. Two of the finest guys I ever worked with happened to be brothers raised on a farm.  During the six month time I mentored them, they both carried multiple jobs, including the farm, and each worked ninety to a hundred hours a week.  They weren’t looking to outsmart the work.
  • Bias for action. They deliver on their word and aren’t all about planning to do something.  They actual follow through.  They ship.
  • Character. They are true to their word and apologize when they fall short.  They’re not trying to live two, or three, or four, lives.
  • Intelligence. They can think on their feet, whether well-educated or not.

There are other value indicators.  Add some of your own. What kinds of qualities other than these do you find motivates you to invest in another?

Now, what are indicators of weak value in those into whom you intend to pour your life and learning?

  • Liars.  No brainer.  If they have trouble telling the truth, your investment is already at risk.  Your name is attached.  Bill Hybels, minister of a very large church in suburban Chicago, says that if you find someone on your staff who plays fast and loose with the truth, “Fire them.  Fire them immediately.  Fire them.”
  • Lack of initiative. A former colleague and I had a discussion many times over the question, “Can you really motivate someone who will not motivate themselves, is not a self-starter?”  We both concluded, having managed lots of people over the years, that you can’t.
  • Sloppy communication habits. I once lived in a region where someone in business could make a ton of money simply by answering their emails and phones and text messages promptly.  A common attitude with a lot of business people who live in the area is less than diligent about this. There are some forms of financial want that are avoidable.  This is one of them.  If people are slipshod about basic courtesy and good business sense in the matter of prompt response, move on.  Your time is too valuable.  If you’re in business with them, you’ll go broke.

There are other signs of potentially poor investments.  What are some you can name?

There is a place for charity and for giving people a second chance.  This post is not about that.  The market goes up and down and people have good days and bad.  This is about well-established habits of engagement with life.

Invest carefully.


Recommended Resources:

A Game Plan for Life: The Power of Mentoring (John Wooden & Don Yaeger)

Mentoring 101 (John C. Maxwell)

Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson (Mitch Albom)


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J. Paul Getty on Habits

“The individual who wants to reach the top in business must appreciate the might and force of habit. He must be quick to break those habits that can break him—and hasten to adopt those practices that will become the habits that help him achieve the success he desires.”

J. Paul Getty

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Getting Ahead

There is healthy and unhealthy ambition in this world—in commerce, in government, in social environs, in religion.  It is something of an art to discern the difference between the two.

“Keeping up with the Joneses” has become proverbial, highlighting the emptiness of meaningless competition with our neighbors.  If one is not careful, however, one can take this to a level that is unprofitable.  And not just in a monetary sense.

There is such a thing in this world as healthy competition.  We’ve seen the benefit of this in northern New York where I live.  For many years, this region was a tad depressed economically.  When Camp Drum became Fort Drum, home of the 10th Mountain Division, a series of economic booms ensued.  The first of these were from 1983-89.  There have been a number since as more troops have been moved here when military bases have closed over the world.  Northern New York looks nothing like it did when I first moved here twenty-four years ago.

The upshot of this has been a proliferation of service industry.  Restaurants, specialty stores, boutiques, home improvement outlets.  All sorts of new business.  The net result is that it has increased competition and caused established companies here to change the way they’ve performed in the marketplace, especially as it relates to customer service.  It’s put them on notice that they have to be on their A game to stay afloat and prosper.

What is true of commerce is also true for our careers.  Right now, we are in the midst of an economic downturn.  It is, therefore, an employer’s market.  The employee pool is loaded with capable people who need jobs.  Gone are the heady days of the mid ‘90’s.

Here’s the challenge for us: To win in a tough economic environment like this, we’ve got to improve.  The competition is stiffer now than twelve years ago.  No, it’s not a time to be afraid.  It is a time to step up and take our skills to another level entirely—in terms of increased knowledge, networks, productivity and overall competence.

How have these times helped you to increase your focus and your net worth?  What tips would you share with our readers?

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