As financial advisors, risk is ever present in what we do and an integral part of our job. It influences not only how we invest assets but when we make allocation changes, where we place assets and which investment companies we use. Risk, and to a larger extent, risk taking effects all of us on a day-to-day basis. Even the simple task of driving to the grocery store involves a certain amount of risk, but I would like to discuss the personal risks that we intentionally seek out and why we do so.
I am a big believer in the idea that we grow as human beings when we challenge ourselves and our comfort levels. It is a difficult proposition as we are genetically wired to avoid risk. However, it is at that very intersection of risk and survival where growth thrives. Think about a time in your life where you pushed through your initial defense reaction and found a strength that you didn’t realize existed. In my own case, I realized that I hadn’t challenged myself like that in quite a while and so I decided to do something about it this summer.
Most people who know me are acutely aware of my love of golf. Golf is generally not a sport associated with risk (and yes, golf IS a sport). It doesn’t involve two people running or skating as fast as they can and intentionally running into each other. It doesn’t involve a 90+ mph fastball finding its way into your rib cage. But golf does present a very scary circumstance – you are all by yourself. There is no team, there is no place to hide. If it starts to get away from you on the third hole, you are facing fifteen more excruciating holes and then you get to post your score for the world to see with no explanation or asterisks. Just a big, ugly number on the scoreboard.
This was the scenario in front of me when I decided to sign up for the 53rd playing of the Ray Fischer Amateur Championship, played on the golf course that I grew up on and still love, Janesville Riverside. 2019 would be my maiden voyage playing in a tournament this big with players from all over the state. As the tournament drew closer, my nerves and anxiety began to grow. This was it, two rounds of 18 holes with both scores posted on numerous websites, newspapers, and media outlets. If you shoot a million, the world will know that you shot a million. I realize that this pales in comparison to other personal risks as there was no chance of death or injury, but to me, this was a risk that I sought out to see if I could handle the environment.
On the morning of June 28, the wait was over. I will admit that I have never felt that level of pressure on the golf course as I could hardly get the ball to stay on the tee. I addressed the ball and hit my first shot and smiled. The following day I completed my 36th hole and my tournament was over. While I didn’t score as well as I would have liked (editor’s note: 85-80, still not too shabby), I walked away with a personal accomplishment of facing down risk and growing as a player and as a person. I proved to myself that pressure can be a great motivator and creates a singular focus.
I challenge you to seek out that thing, that personal risk, whatever it is that gives you pause and take it on. Make it a priority to scare yourself once in a while. You might be surprised by how much it can change your outlook on life.
Even if you aren’t ready to test your risk tolerance on the golf course, mountain biking trail, or triathlon circuit, we’d encourage you to reach out to your advisor and update your risk profile on our risk management software, Riskalyze, so that you can make sure you aren’t risking too much or too little in the markets relative to your personal risk level as our tolerance for risk changes over time.