This week is the 10th anniversary of my website going live, and during this decade, I have fortunately been able to write a blog each week without interruption. It has helped me become more observant and focused while on vacations knowing I will write about some of them while away. It has also helped me to attempt to process the enormous pain of losing my wife of nearly 30 years in the prime of her life. It’s also helped me become better at riding the highs and lows of being a large borrower at CWS using variable rate loans while chronicling the challenges of navigating through Covid, geopolitical issues, disinflation, and inflation, as well as lessons learned from my mid-life passion of tennis, and of course, the periodic concert experience I love to share about via writing and through photographs. It’s been a canvas that has allowed me to express myself in so many ways with incalculable benefits freely.
I have learned a lot over these past 10 years. Perhaps the most critical lesson is the importance and power of consistency. When I first started writing content for the blog, I was basing my intended output on other blogs that I was reading regularly. They would draw my attention not only for the quality of their material but for the quantity of it as well. If this is what it would take to draw my repeated attention, then of course, I would have to do the same if I had any hope of gaining a following. As I contemplated taking on this endeavor and commitment, I must say it was incredibly daunting. It felt like I was embarking on a marathon with minimal training, and whatever little I did was wholly inadequate. And let’s not forget that I had a real job that was my main priority.
When expressing my angst about this to someone who worked at the publisher of my book, he said just do something that I can carry out consistently. I don’t have to write material daily. Just find what works for me. He suggested once a week, and that immediately resonated as I felt a huge weight being lifted from my shoulders.
I realized that what was most important was just getting in the game and finding a way to stay in it. And of course, this didn’t just apply to writing a blog but to life overall. I didn’t need to be focused on how high the mountain was. I just had to start the climb by taking the very first step and then the next one, and so on. And while I will naturally face resistance and writer’s block, the more I work and keep at it, the more strength, strategies, and wherewithal I will have built up to overcome them and soldier on. And before I know it, if I choose to take a little break and turn around I will be amazed to look back and see how high I have climbed.
The advice my contact at the publisher gave me has been of enormous value and helped improve my life immensely. The power of the commitment and weekly deadline have helped improve my discipline and focus while also providing me with a ritual that allows me to reflect on the week that has come to an end, finding the nuggets of insight or interests to write about, and helping me to end the work week in a very satisfying way no matter what is going on.Writing the blog takes me out of the day-to-day swirl and allows time for reflection and releasing what may be residing deep in my psyche in ways that can be quite therapeutic. It also adds to a body of work of which I’m very proud and hope to continue building upon.Click To Tweet
And by continuing to focus on consistency, improvement, and strengthening my overall capabilities, the compounding benefits should undoubtedly continue.
It’s also been important that I don’t lose sight of this being a labor of love and to do my best to enjoy the journey! To have it be this way I have needed to continue to write what I feel compelled to convey and help me release those thoughts, ideas, concerns, and interests that I feel inspired to put out into the world.
Of course, I hope my writing will also be informative, interesting, and entertaining, allowing me to gain clarity and improve my thought process to achieve better life outcomes. I also want it to serve as a public journal of my life and what I find important and compelling in the financial world or other areas of interest. My gift to future generations!
I have always hoped that these blog posts would help me be more observant and improve my decision-making so that I can avoid uncompensated risk and take advantage of compelling opportunities. In short, I want to build up my muscles of courage and take in the world much more consciously while also avoiding those actions that can lead to a loss of capabilities, whether they be physical, mental, emotional, financial, or interpersonal. I also want to avoid closing off options that bring me joy and satisfaction and not trigger anxiety, regret, and an overall feeling of dis-ease.
My goal is to live my life with more vigor and vitality and generate that indescribable feeling of the power and energy that comes from feeling so alive when fully absorbed in that flow state and I truly believe that writing this blog week in and week out has helped me become more capable of reaching this state more frequently.
I thought about areas of my life where long-term consistency has made a difference. The ones that come to mind are my daily smoothie, working out with a trainer twice weekly, taking cold showers, playing tennis, my relationships, and my work at CWS. These are all aspects of my life that I have had consistent involvement and to which I have made long-term commitments. I have been making my smoothie for over 20 years every day when I’m home. I have lived in the same house for nearly 22 years. I was married for nearly 30 years as well as a subsequent long-term relationship, I have added cold water to my showers for over five years now. And when it comes to exercise, I’m particularly pleased with my improved conditioning, core, and strength and how these enhanced capabilities have manifested them on the tennis court. Tennis is a sport I picked up in earnest four years ago and I now typically play at least three days per week. This has been incredibly additive to my life.
I have learned so much from tennis. For example, I played someone last week that I hadn’t competed against in a couple of years. During that initial match, my opponent was clearly in command. He knew how to take advantage of my weaknesses; I wasn’t skilled or strategically knowledgeable enough to develop a game plan to counter him and execute it. Since then I have been working on my game by playing regularly and taking lessons, improving my mental fortitude, remaining calm in the face of adversity, and studying different strategies via YouTube videos. These efforts have paid off and it showed in the rematch we played last week.
I won the first set 6-3 and lost the second set pretty handily 6-2. We then did a 10-point tiebreak. I felt so well prepared for that from the recent tournament I played as it had no deuce points, so every point mattered since I didn’t have the luxury of winning by two points. Of the eight sets I won in that tournament, I won six in five-point tiebreaks, so I was very well-suited to handle a 10-point tie break. As Billie Jean King said, “Pressure is a privilege,” and I definitely adopted this mindset. All of this experience and mental approach helped me get off to a good start from which I never looked back. I ended up winning 10-3.
Even though I lost the second set pretty easily I was proud of the way I went down. I had to play much more aggressively against him, given how fast he was and how well he could come to the net and volley. I had to turn things around and put pressure on him by hitting hard balls into the corner, especially his backhand, play inside the baseline since he likes to hit short drops and slices and be prepared to hit volleys mid-court and half volleys as well as aggressive overheads. My mistakes were typically on shots I hadn’t practiced a lot so I was very accepting of them because I knew that improving in these areas could be tremendously beneficial for my game.
The point of discussing the match is to convey my belief that as I continue to proceed down this long and winding road, it becomes increasingly clear to me that we end up regretting more the chances and risks we didn’t take and the experiences we passed up more than the things we did. This assumes of course, that the actions we regret were not irreparably harmful. And the added benefit of playing the match the way I did and getting outside of my comfort zone, and taking more risk was that I felt so in the moment and alive, especially the more intense the physical exertion. I honestly felt that there was no other place in the world I would rather be than on that court, at that early hour, playing that match, no matter the outcome. I was living life vigorously and with vitality and felt the energy of knowing I was pushing myself physically and mentally and problem-solving in ways that required me to get out of my comfort zone that could only be helpful not only in future tennis matches but off the court as well.
One of the many influential books that I have read but recently revisited is Toward A Psychology of Being by Abraham Maslow. If I were to cite something from the book that gets to the heart of its message, and for life overall for that matter, it would be the following:
We grow forward when the delights of growth and anxieties of safety are greater than the anxieties of growth and the delights of safety.
We essentially have two paths in life. We can either play to win, which is to live with a growth mindset and to consistently make the courageous choice, decisions, actions, etc., or we can play not to lose, which is to live with more of a fixed mindset that values safety and security above all else. To grow requires us to face new challenges, take on greater responsibility, set ourselves up for failure and disappointment. This can be anxiety-producing. It can also lead to incredible rewards of feeling an incredible sense of accomplishment, delight, joy, expansion, breadth, etc.
Choosing the road less traveled is not easy but anything we come to value or derive great meaning and satisfaction from tends to require a significant investment of time, energy, money, and overall training and preparation to put ourselves in a position to earn them. There is far more satisfaction in earning something than being given it, assuming it’s not something of sentimental value being passed down from someone we hold dear.
If I were to summarize, it would be always to put yourself on the field and stay on it by remaining consistently engaged, striving for continuous improvement over a long period of time, being patient, having a growth mindset, and looking at problems as challenges and potential opportunities from which to learn and grow.
Choose the courageous path, the option that is the greater good, and even if it’s difficult, you will know you made the right choice if you feel a sense of joy, ease, or lightness afterward. Either a weight has been lifted off of your shoulders or you will feel like you have left everything on the court by feeling a tired exertion and satisfaction of a job well done. If the decision leads to anxiety, discomfort, a sense of incompleteness, a pit in your stomach, or a gnawing that something is still not right then you probably chose the path of fear and security. You didn’t make a choice that is life-affirming. A choice that is fulfilling builds up greater capabilities in terms of dealing with difficult challenges, enhanced physical strength, emotional fortitude, as well as dealing directly, honestly, and sensitively with others in ways that help them realize that they would be better served if they changed their course, approach to others, etc.
I want to thank the incomparable Heidi Garland and her team at Guild West for her incredible support and encouragement, as well as for her elephant-like memory of everything I have written and done over these last 10 years (and beyond), giving me great prompts for blog topics, as well as very lovingly encouraging me to consider writing another book. If an average book length is approximately 75,000 words, then it’s conceivable I have ten books worth of content from my blogs, so I understand her encouragement!
I also want to thank my partners at CWS, Steve Sherwood and Mike Engels, for being so accepting of the time and financial commitment to maintaining my website and blog, knowing how much personal satisfaction I get from doing it. Even the personal posts that I write ultimately revert back to somehow, some way, wanting it to help CWS and our investors, whether it be by conveying our thinking at the time and shining a light on our thought process so they can have a better understanding of why we are doing what we’re doing or for me to improve my overall skills and capabilities to stay on the field longer and keep moving the ball forward or providing the protections necessary to not go backward for any material distance or length of time.
My goal is to focus more on content that is much more evergreen versus ones that I would classify as temporary knowledge. I would hope someone who reads my writings 10 years from now and beyond will still find value in them.
CWS has been in business since 1969, and we could not have survived and prospered for 54 years without having a long-term orientation and consciously thinking about managing our risks so that we never take ourselves off of the field so that we can take advantage of those very compelling, but relatively rare, opportunities that materialize out of the carnage from when rationality disappears and leads to bubbles being blown and ultimately burst. This can lead to those special times when the odds are overwhelmingly in one’s favor for those with the clarity, courage, commitment, and capability to take advantage of such situations. We always want to be a firm that is well-positioned to take advantage of these fleeting opportunities, and I hope that by writing this blog each week it has helped me contribute to improving the chances of making this happen for CWS and will continue to do so in the future.
When I wrote my book, I wanted it to be positioned as a luxury brand that would be appreciated by deep pockets and deep thinkers because, as Richard Feynman said, “Everything is interesting if you go into it deeply enough.”Click To Tweet
This has been my approach to life and amplified by the commitment to writing this blog weekly. I know what I write is often far longer and more complicated and complex than what would be recommended if I wanted to attract a large audience. I am much more interested in the quality of and depth of the engagement than how many followers I have. In some ways, I feel about the audience I have hoped to attract like Steve Jobs did about great programmers.
Jobs says the difference between using good hardware can be a 2:1 difference for a company. But the difference between a company with superb programmers vs. average ones is 25:1, he says, adding, “That’s probably … certainly the secret to my success. It’s that we’ve gone to exceptional lengths to hire the best people.”
I aspire to have exceptional people read my blog regularly, those who are exceptionally accomplished and/or curious with an insatiable appetite to learn and grow.
Thank you so much to anyone that has taken the time to read my writings over the years. I can’t tell you how gratifying it is when people tell me how much they enjoy reading the blog and how valuable they find it.
This helps me want to keep going for another 10 years!
Love that you blog as I’m sure it has inspired many these past 10 years! Interesting read….and as I tell my student’s writing is very therapeutic!!!
I’d say that this blog is part of my consistency over the past 10 years! Thanks for that, Gary. Appreciate all the thought and intention you have put into this over the past decade.
Gary, as one who has read every word of every blog you have ever written, I can honestly say I’m better off being on this journey with you. Thank you for the shout-out and appreciation of my “Elephant-Like Memory,” your content is unforgettable. Safe to say, I am still holding out hope for book #2…gentle nudge. Happy 10th Anniversary. Here’s to 10 more.
Grateful to have had a chance to read for almost a decade, Gary. Have thoroughly enjoyed the bridge and tie-in of personal endeavors to the firm being that it is all part of the journey where ultimately each may rely on the health and success of the other.
Your reflection of values as well as grit shared in this specific blog is what I hope that the kids on the Little League team I coach and manage can one day come to understand as they find their own path and commit to a consistent and intentional process.
Cheers to the next 10!