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How To Become a No-Conscience Investor

I watched a lot of high school basketball as a kid. On Friday nights and Sunday afternoons, my father would take me to gyms throughout Baltimore to watch up-and-coming players. In one game, I remember seeing a point guard miss his first dozen shots before taking over and scoring 20 points. My father’s comment was: “He has no conscience.”

I thought of that line again on Sunday evening watching the Chiefs and 49ers play in the Super Bowl. Over three quarters into the game, the Chiefs’ quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, was flailing. His arm, his legs, the plays, none of them were working the way they had all season and the scoreboard showed it. His team was down by 10 with seven minutes to go. Then, five minutes and three touchdowns later, the Chiefs had a secure lead and were on their way to a Super Bowl title.

What changed for Patrick Mahomes? Nothing. As a player, he just had no conscience. He did not dwell on what was not working or think about how it looked for an MVP to struggle in the spotlight. He did not stop throwing or running the way he always had. He did not even slow down. In fact, he sped up the offense, trusting in his preparation and that of his team. This is a phenomenon that we see among top performers in sports who, when the game is on the line, want the ball in their hands.

Becoming a No-Conscience Investor

We can learn from these players at times when we need to make critical decisions about investing, but things are not going our way. Like Mahomes, Bryant, and Jordan, we are going to face fear, uncertainty, and adversity on the path to success. A stock market correction, job loss, or family crisis is out of our control, but that does not free us from the need to respond.  If we are to be the leaders of our family’s finances, we need to remain focused, especially when times are tough. Here are some ways to approach financial adversity as a no-conscience investor:

  • Forget what just happened. Just like a team being down, a stock market drop is an event in the past.  As a history student, I get stuck here.  Too much time looking backward can leave you “fighting the last war” instead of responding thoughtfully to the present. We are all emotional when faced with potential losses but getting bogged down in self-pity can cause you to bail on your strategy, assuming that you…
  • Have a strategy! Anecdotally, I think there are a lot of people heavily into stocks right now who have nowhere near the tolerance for a normal pullback in the market. Their plan is for the good times to continue and try to get out before the next Recession. Hope is not a plan. It shouldn’t be a surprise that we can go from “The Roaring 2020’s” to “Coronavirus” overnight, but it always catches people off-guard. Your financial plan should accept that there is risk in the future and allow you to adapt in a confident way. Chiefs’ Coach Andy Reid played a major role in keeping his quarterback focused on the game plan. Mahomes trusted his coach’s play-calling and knew that, combined with his execution, a comeback was possible. That is, if he could…
  • Silence the crowd. In an NFL stadium, the crowd can chant your name one minute and call you a bum the next.  Having no conscience means tuning that noise out and focusing on the job at hand.  When there is financial turmoil, everyone has an opinion: brothers-in-law, neighbors, Jim Cramer. They will all tell you what you should do. However, none of them were there when you prepared. They don’t know the strategy you devised with your advisor that is designed with your end-goal in mind. Most importantly, those who may have opinions aren’t accountable. You are. Your advisor, serving as your financial coach, should be the one helping you stay focused. The coach designs the scheme, the player executes, and the crowd goes wild.

If you have put in the work and prepared for the possibilities, both good and bad, then you can be a no-conscience investor who is able to navigate an uncertain world.  Sports provide  a crucible for decision making under stress and Sunday’s game was a testament to the kind of preparation and execution that we would be wise to imitate.