I’ve had many a hero in my life. When I was a young boy it was Chicago Bears running back and hall-of-famer Walter Payton. As my interest in playing music progressed, I became enamored with legendary bassist Jaco Pastorius. Later in life when I became a father, I turned to philosophy and began to adore the teachings of Socrates. However, through all these years and chapters in my life, no man have I looked up to more than Jerry Seinfeld. There is a certain wisdom and intelligence that comes along with good humor.
A dear friend of mine, who is familiar with my Seinfeld infatuation, recently sent me an article containing an interview with the king of satire. In it, he talks about the value of consistency. When asked what advice Seinfeld gives to young comedians, he answered that, to become a better comic you need to write better jokes and to write better jokes you need to write every day. He suggests getting a wall calendar and putting a red X over the days you have written a joke. Eventually you’ll start a chain of X’s and your only job will be to not break the chain. Seinfeld’s point is that it’s not the results that matter but the process and the discipline. Of course, in the long run results do matter, but the only way to get the results you want is to be consistent and disciplined, so your main focus should be on just that.
When I read this interview, it immediately reminded me of many conversations I have had with clients about being consistent within their financial plans. For example, while annual portfolio returns will vary over time, it is critical to stay consistent with retirement plan contributions. Even if you have the unfortunate reality of taking a pay cut, it is important to maintain your savings by cutting your budget elsewhere. Your only job is to not break the chain. Just staying invested during tough times can be a way of not breaking the chain. When you go through the financial planning process and determine the appropriate risk level for your portfolio, it is important to remember that whatever negative fluctuation that occurs afterwards has been accounted for. Therefore, changing your allocation breaks the chain.
It also can’t hurt to acknowledge that this concept of consistency can have tremendous value in so many other aspects of our lives. It is not just our financial lives that benefits from a healthy dose of discipline. Whether keeping with an exercise routine, practicing an instrument, or just showing up for the people in our lives for whom we care about; on day-to-day basis it is all about being consistent with our approach and trusting that the process will deliver the results we desire.