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Putting Your Career in High Gear

When everything inside of you cries out that you can reach your goals, often it is time to make your goals more challenging

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As you progress in your career, the goals and aspirations that you had during earlier years often don’t match the ones that you now have. You might seek to take on more responsibility at work and to be paid more for your services.

More Challenging Goals

Here is an issue which is subjective and simply isn’t the same for everyone, yet there are common indicators that point to the right times to ‘up’ your goals

If you’ve achieved some of your challenging goals in a fraction of the time you originally allocated, that’s a indication that you could set even more challenging goals, or keep them the same, but decrease the time frame for reaching them.

Chip Eichelberger, formerly Tony Robbins’ International point man, has been a motivational speaker to 1000+ groups. He says that as your competence and expertise develop, and the ease with which you perform compared to others in your profession or industry is notable, that is as good a sign as any that it’s time to make your goals more challenging. Some notable examples will bring this topic to life.

Oh, Oh, Oh, It’s Magic

When Michigan State sophomore Magic Johnson won the NCAA basketball crown in 1979, he entered the NBA and became the starting guard for the Los Angeles Lakers. Among many other rookie stars that year, he sought to make his mark in the pro leagues, and be a major contributor to his team.

During his first season, he received rave notices for his passing ability and leadership skills. During the NBA finals that year, against the Philadelphia 76ers, when All-Star center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was forced to miss the sixth and deciding game because of injury, Magic Johnson filled in at the center position.

In an amazing performance, he scored 42 points and was named the finals MVP. As his Lakers team was crowned NBA champions, it was apparent even in his rookie season, that one championship for Magic wasn’t going to be enough. Any earlier goals he might have had regarding his performance, how the Lakers would fare, and what kind of champions they might be, suddenly became outdated.

Consumer Advocacy Redefined

Ralph Nader had been a one-man crusader for consumer rights in the middle of the last century. In the early 1960s, when he challenged the automobile industry through the court system and with his book, Unsafe at Any Speed, he was quickly hailed as a consumer advocate par excellence. The book, which went on to become a bestseller, documented the known risks and engineering shortcomings of the nation’s most popular selling cars.

Whatever goals Nader had as a consumer advocate, following his sparkling victory in compelling the auto industry to increase its safety standards, soon became surpassed. Nader realized that one well-presented jury case was more impactful than 10,000+ protesters clanging on fences outside of General Motors headquarters.

Not resting on his achievements, Nader initiated the Public Interest Resource Group (PIRG), which ultimately launched a branch in every state. He founded Common Cause, an organization and national magazine directed at illuminating the practices and procedures of special interest groups, in particular, when they ran contrary to the “common causes” that benefitted so many more people.

After that, Nader became an unbowed advocate of environmental protection. He exposed corporate and multinational interests that appeared to act contrary to the wants and needs of larger society. In perspective, Nader’s whole career was one of choosing goals, and then by enlisting the dedication and support of legions of followers – primarily volunteers, making his goals even more challenging.

When everything inside of you cries out that you can reach your goals, and achieve even more, it is an appropriate time to make your goals more challenging.

From His Dorm Room

Michael Dell is the founder of Dell computers. As you might know, when he launched his company decades ago, it was from his college dormitory room! At many junctures throughout his career, in his 20s, 30s, 40s and now 50s, he has upped the ante in terms of the goals he has chosen.

Today, this multimillionaire many times over sponsors one of the contests on the PGA golf tour, the Dell Technologies Championship. Dell has said that you don’t have to be a genius or visionary, or even a college graduate to be successful. “You simply need a framework and a dream.”

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



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Business

Micro-tasking, not Multitasking, for Effective Performance

Professionals who can micro-task are in demand; multitaskers are doing themselves and their organizations a disservice.

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Much as been discussed about multitasking and fortunately, much of what has been written exposes the myth that multitasking represents. Instead of making us more productive and having a greater output, we tend to slow down on the very things that were trying to speed up on, and we end up making more errors.

Micro-tasking, by contrast, is the ability to compartmentalize and to focus in quick, short intervals on a variety of items that compete for attention — a vital skill for career professionals. Micro-tasking is effective for quick decisions, and for handling routine and short term tasks term nature. Multitasking is the attempt to handle two important tasks at the same time. It is not to be confused with micro-tasking.

A Skill to Cultivate

Some workers have little choice in the short run but to work in a distracting, noisy environment. Some employees, in particular, were retained to be able to quickly shift their attention from one issue to another, focusing on each issue as needed.

In an interruption-based environment, such as a hospital, police station, retail store, or airline ticket counter, the ability to micro-task is a valuable skill. Throughout the course of a day, a manager in such settings might encounter a variety of people asking questions and voicing concerns. For sale managers micro-tasking can make all the difference in making quota or not.

Tasks that require our sharp attention necessitate that we slow down, focus, keep interruptions at bay, and work as effectively as we can, toward completion. Handling two tasks simultaneously, each of which require sharp attention, is a prescription for poor results.

Be in Demand

Professionals who can micro-task are in demand. Others, who engage in multitasking, are doing themselves and their organizations, a disservice.

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When the Market Crashes, There is Only One Place to Hide

Here’s the short, simple reality to understand: in powerful down markets, every asset class gets clobbered.

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Pile of Cash

“This is Wall Street, Dr. Burry. If you offer us free money, we are going to take it.”

-Smug, Know-Nothing Goldman Sachs Chicky in The Big Short

My firm didn’t operate too differently from the above statement, frankly. but there was that one time we said no…

In 2007 or 2008 – I don’t recall exactly – a mutual fund client asked us to create a defensive portfolio they could launch as a new product.

Sounds simple enough, right? Except, they weren’t looking for a portfolio loaded with utilities, healthcare and consumer staples.

What they wanted was a portfolio of stocks that would rise when the market was falling (it already was falling, but Wall Street is just as good at closing the barn door after the animals have left as are elected officials).

I suspected this would be tough to create. Once we ran our studies, indeed we realized this was an impossible request and for the first time ever, we declined the portfolio request.

Here’s the short, simple reality to understand: in powerful down markets, every asset class gets clobbered. *

Put in a more fancy-pants sounding, Wall Streety way: during crashes, correlation skyrockets. In this case, it was effectively impossible to create a portfolio of stocks that would rise in a crashing market; all stocks crater in that environment.

Correlation is measured on a scale of -1 to 1. A reading of 1 defines perfect correlation, -1 is perfect inverse correlation and 0 means no correlation at all.

A reading of 1 is easy to understand but think of the others this way. The correlation of wearing surgical masks and the spread of covid almost certainly resides near zero. Jen Psaki’s relationship with the truth? Probably a -.9 or so.

As an aside, both high and low correlations have value. For instance, we had a good friend in college who we came to realize had a sense of direction that had to be very close to a full negative 1. If he were in the car and thought we should turn left, the rest of us knew with total certainty to go right.

With correlation, readings at or near 1 and -.1 are rare in anything that actually requires study, so measurements above .4 already start to imply strong correlation.

When we looked at the historical track record we found that in severe downturns, all asset classes fell with the market at correlations above .5. It was eerie.

What about foreign stocks? Um, no… that’s actually a double whammy of bad news. Not only do their markets get hammered at least as hard as ours, currency declines magnify those losses. We can all appropriately hate what our leaders are doing to destroy the U.S. Dollar, but in a world of fiat currencies it is ours the world runs to as the safe haven. Most foreign currencies decline in value as a result.

Cryptos? Who the hell knows, but why would they be spared if gold isn’t?

Wait, what about gold? Yeah, it will probably act like a safe haven in a down market but in this case that probably means it will just decline less than stocks overall. For instance, while the Dow literally got cut in half from October, 2007 to February, 2009, gold’s peak-to-trough decline in 2008 was fully 25%.

By being down “only” 25%, did gold perform better than the market? Yes, but correlation of the direction of the movement skyrocketed even in this safe-haven asset class.

Quick disclaimer: I currently own gold and silver and will be holding these positions. But I hold them in the proper size and I am also expecting them to initially decline when the market really tanks.

Important note: if you’re holding gold and silver mining companies – which, after all, are just stocks – you can expect them to get hammered just as hard as all the stocks around them. The relative outperformance of bullion itself won’t save them; again, just go look at 2008.

Okay, so what the heck should someone do right now?

Well, I don’t like giving “right now” investment advice so I’ll say what I have been saying all year to close friends and family: if you’re fully invested, raise at least some cash in your portfolio. I’ve been advising a minimum of 20% but that figure will vary depending on your personality.

As I’ve been telling them, think of it this way: if I’m wrong and the market keeps ramping higher on the back of all this stimulus – and that indeed is the only reason the market has continued its 2021 surge, btw – and you’re still 80% invested, you’ll still be making a lot of money and you’ll feel okay about it. Sure, you’ll mutter that I was early with this advice – I have been all year and still could be depending on central bank responses to this decline – but you won’t resent me for the input.

If you stay fully invested, however, and the market tanks by 40%, you’ll feel ill. Having some cash on the sidelines provides for a rainy day, keeps something available with which to buy stocks near future lows and, most importantly, will do wonders for both your decision making and your psyche.

When people get stuck for cash – margin calls, mortgage payments, whatever the need may be – they make all sorts of bad decisions. They’ll sell whatever they have to and often, it’s psychologically easier to sell their “winners” along the way than it is the stocks that have been crushed the most. What many people end up with at bottoms is a portfolio full of the crappiest individual names.

‘Oh great,’ you may be thinking, ‘you’re telling us this on a day when the market is already down 500 points. Thanks a lot.’

True. Actually, I’ve had this post 80% drafted for the last 10 days or so, it just felt like that this might be the jarring market day in which readers would take it seriously. Let me explain by doing a little mind reset with you:

You may have a 401k that had risen, say, from $200k to $500k over the last three years (until 2 weeks ago). Awesome! But unsustainable.

After the market weakness of the last couple weeks, maybe its value has declined to $450k. If you’re the type that thinks my advice makes sense, but you don’t want to sell any stocks or mutual funds because they just fell from $500k, your mindset is all wrong. Sorry to be so blunt but it’s true.

Here’s what you actually have on your hands: a 401k that has risen from $200k to $450k over the last three years. Still awesome, also unsustainable.

If you think you’re the one genius who can nail market tops perfectly and you’re now certain that the market will soon regain its recent highs, re-read my last sentence and get your head on straight.

That said, at this moment I do have to admit that I don’t know if this is the start of the big correction. On the one hand, a few too many people for my taste are looking for that crash. On the other, how insanely optimistic did the market have to be that only now it is noticing the slow-moving Evergrande disaster in China that has been known for a year and plainly visible for nearly a month?

Regardless, the point is this: if this is the start of the big correction – or even a true bear market – then this is only the beginning.

We’re at such stratospheric valuation heights – the highest in history, generally – that the next big correction will take stocks down 30, 40 or even 50%.

So yes, it’s still okay to be raising at least some cash today. Even today.

Tighten up stop losses. Raise cash right now from zero to 5% if your end goal is 20%. Redirect future 401k deposits to the money market fund rather than the high-growth stock funds you’ve been riding.

In short: take action. Don’t be paralyzed and again keep in mind this simple reality: in powerful down markets, nothing gets spared. The only place to hide is in cash.

This post has me re-awakened. More soon…
FDG

*Historically, there has been one other place to hide in down markets: high grade, U.S. bonds. That will likely still turn out to be the case – indeed, bonds are rallying today – but what’s the point? The rates offered by today’s bonds are so meaningless as to be roughly equivalent with cash so my preference at this moment in time is for cash.

 

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