The Importance of Learning Outside Your Field.

Nate Crosby |

Often times these students, who are hungry to grow in their field of study, will ask me what books I recommend they read to help them advance their knowledge and understanding.  Working in the financial industry, there are no shortage of books written about any topic of investing your heart may desire.  Dividend investing, Tactical Analysis, fundamental analysis, investing on moving averages, real estate, precious metals, commodities…my point is it is a giant field with a ton of available information.  What topics and books do I recommend? As you can consume, I have found even in poorly written books I am able to extract one sentence, one piece of wisdom that has helped me grow as an advisor. If you had to pin me down and begin somewhere, I’d start with anything written by Warren Buffett or Ray Dalio.  Warren Buffett publishes an annual letter to shareholders.  Read them all.   You can find them for free on the Berkshire Hathaway website .  Read the article Warren penned in the New York Times titled, “Buy American, I Am”.  Within that article is the basics of becoming a successful investor, but that’s not actually why I’m here today

      Becoming an expert in your field will make you successful.  Consumer’s pay money for experts. I pay someone to do the book-keeping and file quarterly taxes for CAG.  I could probably do that myself, but I’m not an expert at that and I believe our clients are better served if I make the main thing, in this case making and protecting wealth, the main thing. 

     Becoming an expert in a field can make you successful, but becoming an expert that is rounded, who can connect the dots, and can relate and effectively communicate to others can make you a superstar.  It is for that reason that when a student asks me what books they should read, often times, the reading list is composed of books outside of the field of finance and investing.   Many valuable lessons I teach investors have been discovered by parents, businessowners, soldiers, athletes and entrepreneurs.

     In an interview, retired Major General John Gronski, who wrote the book, “The Ride of Our Lives: Lessons on Life, Leadership & Love”, he discussed the futility of Hamburger Hill.  The battle of Hamburger Hill was likely not taught in your history book, but it should have been.  In Vietnam, American leadership ordered a full frontal assault on Hill 937.  The battle was fought for over 10 days.  On the 11th day American forces were able to secure the hill.   It was a grueling battle.  That hill cost over 400 American lives.  They called it Hambuger Hill because of what it turned soldiers into.  Shortly after the victory American leadership decided that the hill offered no strategic advantage, so they abandoned the hill. 

      If you and I were asked to rattle off a few phrases to summarize Hamburger Hill, disgusting, terrible leadership, sad, heartbreaking, waste of lives may come to the tip of our tongue.  Most of us will never be asked to charge towards machine gun fire, but we will be lured into many battles that we should never fight. The lesson I learned from reading John Bronski’s book and listening to him talk, is that before I allocate time and resources to a cause, make sure the victory will be worth the cost of achieving it.  Everyone knows that couple who got a divorce three years ago and have since committed themselves to trying to make the other miserable, and in doing so have spent away all their money and made themselves miserable in the meantime. But it doesn’t have to be as dramatic as that.  Maybe its realizing that committing three hours of my day on a Sunday watching professional athletes who act like children is not worth the resources.  That time may be better spent on the bike path with your children or catching frogs with them in the pond. In a sense this circles back to our discussion about “the one thing.”  What’s most important to me?  If the battle does not move me closer to that then it’s a battle not worth fighting.  It takes courage and strength not to fight every battle; not to be suckered into divisive speech on social media.  When your friends are mortgaging their futures to buy the latest and greatest toys, boats and cars, it takes strength not to fall into that trap of keeping up.  To stick to your wealth accumulation plan. Outwardly you may not have that boat or jet ski, but you are gaining financial freedom.  You can’t drive around in your investment account so there is no show.  The satisfaction and freedom is inward, not outward.  That takes strength. The battle of keeping up with the Jones’s is a victory that is not worth the cost.

     Nate the battles you are talking about avoiding do not cost lives.  I’m telling you they do: your life.  Do you really want to spend the next decade battling your ex-spouse as each of you tries to pull the other under water?  That battle my friends will cost you years of your life and happiness.   When we enter into battles that cost our time and resources and those resources can’t be directed at the thing that is truly important to us.  It costs us opportunities.  Do you know what one of the saddest phrases is? 

What if?

What if I had been focused?  What if I didn’t allow myself to get side-tracked?  What if I had focused on the things that I can control, that matter to me, and let the rest alone?  What would my life had been like?  I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to utter that phrase.

Before you pick a battle, make sure the victory is worth the cost.