This month I’ll be completing my 6th triathlon. Now, you might be thinking, “Wait, isn’t this is a personal finance blog about financial independence? What does triathlon training have to do with gaining financial freedom?”
Well, I’m glad you asked.
The journey of training to complete a triathlon and the journey of achieving financial independence have a lot more in common that you might think.
This post will detail the common themes I have discovered that have helped me achieve results personally and financially that make me feel confident and happy.
An early habit you develop with triathlon training is understanding that it requires a holistic approach. Training (which I’ll get to next) is one step amongst many that come before the race. There are many other components that go into training besides the physical sweat and tears.
Much of the effort to fuel your body comes from knowing your body. What I mean by this is understanding how much rest and recovery you need after a workout, or knowing what foods will help and which foods will hurt you on race day.
This holistic approach applies for personal finance as well.
I’ll be the first to say that life is not about money, however, it does have a way of creeping into our lives. Our finances can be a source of turmoil and stress; that might be the reason you want to get things squared away.
Pursuing financial independence has also brought my girlfriend and I closer together because we share our common values. We talk about the places we want to see or the things we want to do in the next few years. Talking about an adventure is great, but when we start to make choices bring ourselves one step closer to making our dreams a reality, then we get to enjoy a piece of that future experience NOW.
You can’t just wake up on race day and have the race of your life, breaking all your previous records. You need to prepare.
“More important than the will to win is the will to prepare”, as Munger put it.
That’s one thing I love about the sport. You get back what you put in. I wish I could say the same about every aspect of life.
Each winter, I find myself sliding into a terrible shape. I often eat carelessly and start to notice the number on the scale creep up. Of course, I only let myself go for the hibernation season (8 months of winter) in Chicago, before I’m back to training.
One thing you learn very quickly is that as you fall off, you quickly can jump back on. What I mean is the physical endurance I built up last year doesn’t disappear overnight. It doesn’t disappear after a month or even a few months. While it might be hard to start up again, once I have the momentum going, the muscle memory kicks in and training becomes much more enjoyable.
Emotionally and intellectually, it is an even easier upward spiral. Despite my lack of breath control, I can rely on past experiences to remind myself of what I’ve achieved in the past.
Similarly, personal finance is not an all or nothing pursuit. We all make mistakes from time to time and make a stupid financial decision. I know I have.
If we keep building on the 1% improvements in our budget, then overtime, we’ll build enough momentum to see ourselves through to the finish line.
With a sport that goes for multiple hours, I often approach a zen like state before the big race. There’s nothing more I can do in the moment.
If I’ve prepared well, then I know the nerves will disappear. My problem is that I’m often overly excited at the start of a race and I need to reign in my wish to push it too hard right from the start.
The same happens with personal finance. I often catch myself being overly excited during the end of a quarter when we tally up our new net worth numbers. We’re happy to see the numbers moving fast in a positive direction.
We know our celebration in the moment is the result of months of work, but we still have to maintain the discipline that got us there. While we automate as much as possible (bill pay and automatic withdrawals for investments and student loans), we know many of our day to day decisions add up as well.
The Finish Line
My favorite triathlete has a quote that I connected with on a deep level.
“It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about maximizing and fulfilling potential.”
With all things in life, there isn’t much of a finish line. The joy of the process can be experienced in the moment of the big race AND during the process it took to get there.
Triathlons keep my body physically and mentally sharp. To a certain degree, training out there on my own becomes therapeutic — a sort of mental check in with how I’m feeling. Once I’m exhausted from hours of training, I remove any filters on my own mode of thinking and tend to have clear thoughts on where I want my life to go.
For me, personal finance is an experience of growing in confidence while I expand the level of freedom and choices that are available in my life.
When we think of our future, we imagine places we will see or things we will do. I don’t think many people think of having a specific dollar amount in the bank. Instead, they think about the lifestyle that money will allow them to have.
One Final Thought – Have FUN with it!
If we take things too seriously, then we’re bound to get ourselves hurt.
Do you have personal finance analogies from the hobbies you enjoy? Are there activities you do to keep the big picture in mind while focusing on the here and now?