Money – So you want to start investing in the stock market?

The following article does not constitute financial advice. Please always consult a regulated financial advisor before taking investment decision. I am not qualified to tell you what investments are relevant to your personal situation.

Following March 2020 stock market correction, I received record number of messages from people interested in starting to invest in the stock market. I was genuinely surprised as I tend to receive such kind of requests when markets are at record high and mainstream media project and upward-forever trend.

My first answer is usually “considering your savings, if you remove 6 months worth of your current spending, how much are you left with?”. If positive (usually 50% of the time), next question is “out of this remaining amount, how much can you afford not to use for the next 5 years?”.
My opinion is that your very first stock market portfolio shall only be a fraction of the last figure.

Then, I encourage people to read this article.

Considering the previously mentioned article is digested, let’s look at a few considerations regarding investment timing.

Is this a good time to invest?” That is a million dollar question that is almost impossible to answer because you need to take into consideration so many variables such as investment horizon and risk appetite. From historical perspective, the “good time” to invest was yesterday (or years ago) and if you read the recommended books, that won’t come as a surprise.

Markets dropped so much already, they have to come back up” Well, yes & no, that’s again a matter of other variables such as time horizon and stock valuation prior to the market correction. Let’s take the example of Citigroup. Before the 2008 Financial Crisis, it was trading above 500 USD but it never crossed 85 USD since then.

My final answer is simple: investments are a complex topic that need study as well as experience (lots of trial and error). Instead of rushing to the stock market, you may want to spend time to ponder the ressources available to you (books, websites, podcasts…) and speak to professionals advisors. Once you are ready to invest, before you reinvent the wheel, you may want to consider replicating some of the strategies & portfolios recommended by a professional advisor. To me, nothing beats experience when it come to investing.

 

MONEY – Forget New Year Resolutions, time to do some Accounting

Year end welcomes its deal of rituals. From New Year Resolutions to Past Year Review, I’ve tried many variations, with all sorts of associated accountability frameworks. Before we dwell in Past Year Review in a future post (definitely one of the most effective), I’d like first to encourage you to do two ultra-quick accounting exercices. This will ensure you start the year with your Finances on track –  and adjust your Christmas Shopping according to what you can actually afford, not based on your credit card limit.

Continue reading “MONEY – Forget New Year Resolutions, time to do some Accounting”

Health – Sleep science made simple

Sleep science has been taking Social Media by storm in the recent years. The new school of thoughts praises hustlers who clock-in 8 hours and still enjoy their power naps, far from the “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” mentality that prevailed not that long ago. Abundance of sleep related publications led however to a new source of stress linked to “sleep optimisation”. My conviction is that sleep does not have to be an over-engineered process. While marginal gains are interesting, they remain second order priorities and they can cloud the process toward restful sleep. After few years of experimentations, I believe the key to restful sleep lies with those four simple factors:

1 – Find your wake-up timing and stick to it

We often read that waking up as early as 4 or 5 am is the ultimate key to performance. That might be case, provided you get enough rest by this early time of the morning. In my experience, the most efficient decision I ever took was to work on finding the wake-up timing that works for me and sticking to it as much as possible. Finding your own timing is simply a try-and-error game. I found mine by observing the earliest time in the week I needed to be at work, then factoring in the time I need to prepare for a normal morning. That becomes your fixed wake-up timing. As for bedtime, simply reverse engineer  your estimated sleep need, this will give you a daily target bedtime. I encourage you to stick as much as possible to your wake-up timing: even if you don’t need to wake up early some days of the week, try to set your alarm clock at the same wake-up timing. Shall you need to increase your sleep duration to recover from any lack of sleep, I found it more efficient to incorporate variability in the bedtime

2 – Count cycles

Our body does not count hours, so we need to learn how our body-clock works. Sleep science established that average sleep-cycle takes around 90 minutes. During one cycle, different phases will come after another, and thanks to these phases the body finds some rest. Why is it important to follow such cycles? Because the cycle timing during which you wake up determines how rested you may feel. This means a longer rest is not necessary what you need.
I am not qualified to advise you on how many cycles your own body needs, but I found that 5 is my peak performance and 4 is usually enough to function normally the following day. Unless I accumulated some sleep debt, I don’t observe marginal improvements from 5 to 6 cycles. This is how I determine my bedtime: factoring the number of sleep cycles I target, based on my fixed waking-up timing.

3 – Get ready to sleep

Setting up a sleep routine significantly helped me to increase sleep quality. I did not develop an esoteric routine around  intense meditative practice or ice bath. Instead I rely on 5 simple steps:
  1. Dim the lights – use reduced lights with warmer tones. You don’t need to redecorate your place, simply use bedside lighting with warm colours bulbs and avoid direct lighting. Be mindful of the lights in the bathroom and kitchen that are usually cold. I added candles and small warmer light to the bathroom to avoid relying on the bright lighting before going to bed
  2. Switch off Tech – conscious effort to remove screens in the 90 minutes prior to target sleep time
  3. Read – few pages of a good book help my mind to shift away from work-related stress
  4. Drink – making and enjoying a hot drink sets the mood. The range of caffeine-free drinks is wide, simple chamomile works for me.
  5. Smell something familiar – especially while traveling, lavender essential oil proves an efficient way to put my brain into sleep mode
These steps evolved over time, with different experimentations.

4 – See the big picture

In the early stages of my sleep journey I was obsessed with achieving a “perfect” sleep every night. I was tracking and analysing each night, looking for the rational beyond non-standard patterns. This created an anxious mindset that disturbed my ability to rest and which forced me to drop all experimentations. As I kept reading more about sleep, I shifted my approach to an overall improved sleep quality. I focussed on building healthier routines and more pragmatic framework, accepting that my sleep-spreadsheets did not stand a chance versus real life. I now believe that quality sleep lies in understanding the 3 principles we discussed above and in my ability to stick to them over the longer run. My current target is to achieve 4 nights a week of 5-cycles.

If you wish to read more about sleep, I would advise to start with The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington, and Sleep by Nick Littlehales.

Book references here.

WISDOM – The Checklist Manifesto – Atul Gawande

Main learning outcome
Systematic frameworks, such as checklists, tend to help us make the most of our capabilities and knowledge in hyper complex and stressful situations.

Checklists are tried and tested instruments that support complex decision making process. Their use in Aeronautics led surgeon Atul Gawande to partner with World Health Organization to study their potential use in the field of medicine. While working on such project, Gawande witnessed checklists’ use in fields such as construction or investment. Leveraging on such experiences and best practices, he designed medical checklists with data-backed proven efficiencies.

Why are checklists useful?

  • They foster collaboration and encourage information sharing, leading to collective empowerment
  • They help to address recurring mistakes
  • They support rational approach to otherwise emotionally involving decision making (for instance under pressure or involving potential financial gain)

How to build useful checklists?

  • Explain and document how you wish to use this checklist – it won’t be self evident for most users
  • Keep it short
  • Focus on core elements
  • Be specific, also on timing of such checks
  • Try and test, again and again
  • Date it – so it can be updated

Bridging the implementation gap

  • Review my existing checklists, leveraging on above principles
  • Expend the use of checklist to investment decisions
  • Print and display checklists

View the book (or ebook) The Checklist Manifesto on Amazon

Read in April-May 2019

How I came across The Checklist Manifesto
The book happened to be quoted on several occasions in podcasts, namely on Tim Ferriss’ show with Ramit Sethi and was featured in Tim’s blogpost The Unusual Books That Shaped Billionaires, Mega-Bestselling Authors, and Other Prodigies

WISDOM – Learning from the best: Zig Ziglar

“There is a difference between school and education: you can finish school but you can never finish your education”. This is one of the many quotes from Zig Ziglar, that despite its seemingly naive wording, carries enough power to change careers and lives.

I usually refer to Zig Ziglar as a mentor, despite the fact that I never got the privilege to meet him. The reason is his wisdom keeps guiding me year after year, from my professional live to my personal one.

Mentors are not available to everybody, that’s what good books and encyclopedias are for, would also say Ziglar. That could be the motto of this blog.

My absolute recommendation to start studying Zig Ziglar’s work is the audiobook version of Secrets of Closing the Sales, read by Ziglar himself. To me it works almost as a private coaching session.

Most of the wisdom shared across Ziglar’s work will not appear as groundbreaking or as the one thing that makes the difference. What Ziglar offers is a framework that helps to develop a proactive mindset.

Some of the tips I use:

  • Dedicate daily some specific timing to focus on my #1 business objective. Everyday a specific moment in my calendar is booked exclusively to call clients. This helps me to ensure that by default I keep building every day on what is my strongest skills: sales
  • As a salesperson, paying attention to treat any internal stakeholder as a client. Namely, I increased significantly the importance of training my team as I realized that they were likely to speak to make clients as much as I do, even if not more.
  • Keep studying everyday, especially learning from the best through readings. This is one of the reason I created this blog. Discussing about the learning points helps me to make the most of my readings.

WISDOM – The 5 Most Difficult skills to recruit in 5 books

As I read the 2018 Financial Times Skill Gaps Survey, I was surprised to discover what are said to be the 5 most difficult skills for employers to recruit. Although this study focuses on MBA graduates, I believe anyone would benefit from developing such skill set. Yet, it is not mandatory to get back to Business School to significantly improve your performance in such areas.

Here I wish to highlight 5 books that will definitely build up capabilities in what top recruiters consider today as the 5 most difficult skills to recruit. These books have so far been among the most influential ones to me. I encourage you to spend time to read and study them. Such books are also frequently quoted among most recommended books by successful entreprenors and investors such as Warren Buffet, Bill Gates or Tim Ferris.

1. Ability to influence others

Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

This book taught taught me more than Organizational Behavior module. Its principles, although sometimes simple are the second to none to establish empathy & meaningful conversations, which are the two pillars of trust. What Carnegie teaches is influence lies in one’s ability to listen and develop empathy. It is not, contrary to popular belief, a manipulation playbook.

2. Strategic thinking

Sun Tzu, The Art of War or The Prince by Machiavelli, pick one!

These two strategy masterpieces will not be a straightforward “how to”. Yet, with time to pounder and translate the learnings into your daily situation and reality, they can provide powerful reasoning maps. The main learning outcome remains to focus on second and third order consequences of any action, or absence of action.

3. Drive and resilience

No other than Drive by Daniel Pink offers insights about what truly motivates us. The trilogy Autonomy, Mastery & Purpose provides a useful tool to reframe our job description. Ability to reframe the job in those terms will contribute to a genuine motivation.

4. Big data analysis

Factfulness by Hans Rosling.

This may sound far stretched as Rosling will not actually teach you about Big Data but I believe he builds the most important piece of the data analystics puzzle: the ability to suspend your pre-existing judgement, gather new sets of data, and then take a fresher look the situation. This is a pre-requisit to immerse yourself in the Big Data culture and supersedes to me all the technical elements.

5. Ability to solve complex problems

Ray Dalio’s Principles is a good start.

Complex problems require methodology to be solved, then can not be taken-on head first. Thanks to Dalio’s reasoning system, we are better equipped to face complex situations. The books offers a detailed framework that one can study and adapt to its own personal situations. The main learning element is to develop systematic approach to problem solving.

How did this list help you to identify gaps in your own skills? Share your thoughts in the comments!

References

https://www.ft.com/content/64b19e8e-aaa5-11e8-89a1-e5de165fa619

https://personaloptimum.com/2018/07/20/wisdom-factfulness-by-hans-rosling/

The Unusual Books That Shaped 50+ Billionaires, Mega-Bestselling Authors, and Other Prodigies

Tribe of Mentors — Recommended Books from Mentors and Top Books from Tools of Titans