Mental Health Awareness Week

As this week is Mental Health Awareness Week, it seemed obvious to have a theme of mental wellbeing running through this edition’s core. Weird times lead to weird reactions in our mind. As I saw on an anonymous post recently, ‘lockdown can only go one of 4 ways; you’ll come out a monk, a hunk, a chunk or a drunk. Choose wisely!’ It isn’t always that easy, so here are some resources that may help, regardless of which path you are currently taking.

Something to Share:

A great resource that I stumbled across, and shared with my team earlier in the week, is a page put together by The Mental Health Foundation called ‘How to look after your mental health during the Coronavirus outbreak’. You can share or read it here.

TED Talk That’s Inspired Me

‘The Surprising Science of Happiness’ by Dan Gilbert, author of ‘Stumbling on Happiness’, challenges the idea that we'll be miserable if we don't get what we want. Our "psychological immune system" lets us feel truly happy even when things don't go as planned. You can watch it here.

Something That Made Me Laugh

Apparently laughing is one of the best antidotes to stress and I was recently reminded of this story. In lockdown we have all been a little tempted to try things at home we’ve never done before…but don’t try this! Read the story here.

What I’ve Been Reading

Caryl tends to read quite a lot around the subject of mindfulness, and I asked her for a recommendation for a book that you can just pick up from time to time to give you a pause for thought. She recommended ‘The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse’ by Charlie Mackesy. Richard Curtis described it as 'A wonderful work of art and a wonderful window into the human heart'. Enter the world of Charlie's four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons here.

Quote of the Week

“Life (or golf) is not a game of perfect.”

Dr Bob Rotella

How I’ve Been Improving My Mornings

Research shows that the first minutes of us being awake are some of the most important for our overall mood for the day. If we dive into news, emails or social media, this has the potential to immediately lead us down the wrong track.

Since lockdown began, I still rise at 5:30 every morning, but feeling a little less pressure to get my exercise done before the school run or getting to the office, I have taken to journaling for 10 minutes each morning before I head out on the bike or for a run. My research (and trial and error) has led me to the following structure so far - although often I won’t do them all:

  1. Gratitude: 3 things I am grateful for
  2. Best things: 3 best things that happened yesterday
  3. Lessons: lessons that can be learnt from yesterday
  4. Today: the most important things of the day ahead
  5. Conscious stream: just write (learn more here).

Finance Theme I’ve Been Considering

One of the things that stresses us out about money most is the question, ‘will I have enough?’.

Whether you are 20 years from retirement, on the verge of it, or already in amongst it, the same concern runs through us. Whilst detailed lifetime cashflow forecasting is the best way to alleviate that worry, we wanted to create something quick and easy to help anyone and everyone. Enter ‘The 2 Minute Retirement Plan’ a newly revamped tool to help you determine whether you will have enough which you can try or share here. Please don’t keep it a secret!

Stay happy and healthy, and enjoy a sunny bank holiday weekend.

Religion, My Life Library & The 2 Popes

This week I seem to have ended up learning a lot about religion. Not for any specific reason, other than pure happenstance. Religious or not, I hope there is something here that you find useful or interesting… and I also have a request for your help. Happy Friday!

What I’ve Been Reading

After a conversation in a pub one night, I bought the book ‘A Little History of Religion’ by Richard Holloway then never got around to listening to it. For whatever reason, on a bike ride last week, I decided now was the time, and have since almost finished it. What I have loved about it, is that it has massively broadened my knowledge on a subject upon which I previously felt undereducated.

Learning more about the different religions and their origins has given me a much better understanding of the people that we share this planet with. What I found particularly interesting was the commonalities between them; they really aren’t that different at all. Whatever your thoughts on organised religion (over the years it has caused a huge amount of bloodshed and a huge amount of good), this book has helped me understand the playing field a little better. You can read or listen to it here.

The Life Library

Reading ‘A Little History of Religion’ got me thinking - something I do a lot of when on the bike or running - what other subjects, whilst not being my core focus in life, should I expand my knowledge in? What books would be in a ‘Life Library’, if you like. What books should everyone have read to give them a more diverse knowledge of the world around us? Immediately springing to mind were books like Bill Bryson’s ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ which I read years ago, and ‘The Body: A Guide for Occupants’ which is currently on my reading list, ‘The E-Myth Revisited’ for business, ‘Man’s search for Meaning’ for purpose, ‘Born to Run’ and so many more.

On this basis, I decided I would like to put together ‘The Life Library’ to broaden my own knowledge, to share with others - in particular my team at Efficient Portfolio, and for the next generation entering the world of work.  So, I need your help. Please could you suggest any books you think should be in the Library of Life, and why? All recommendations gratefully received, and once complete, hopefully next week, I will share it with you, so you too can benefit from the same. Thanks in advance.

What I’ve Been Watching

By coincidence, Caryl and I watched the film ‘The 2 Popes’ last week, for no other reason that it was well promoted on Netflix, and it featured one of my favourite actors, Sir Anthony Hopkins. Knowing nothing of its story, I was surprised to find that I was watching the true story of how Pope Benedict XVI forms a friendship with the current Pope Francis, and then becomes only the second Pope in history to retire. A captivating film, that you can watch here.

Quote of the Week

“Live. Give. Forgive.”

  • Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Finance Theme I’ve Been Considering

Something that is often talked about in religion is the concept of tithing. It is said in the Bible you should give 1/10th of your income to your local church because sacrificing a portion of our income helps us look outside our selfishness and makes us more aware of the needs of others. Not only that, but by tithing, the giver will prosper with more than just money as a result of the mindset it creates.

Regardless of your religious beliefs, there are some important financial lessons here. It is easy to feel like you cannot afford to save; after all, you are spending everything you earn and sometimes more. I cannot overstate the change in mindset towards money when you know you are saving something for your future, regardless of how small an amount it is. You know you are earning more than you need, and I can personally speak of the power that brings to your mindset.

The same applies to giving money to charity regularly, whoever the benefactor. Giving money regularly to charity tells your subconscious that you do have more than you need, and the ironic thing is that mindset will lead you towards having more money. Crazy as it sounds, it is true - so make sure that unless you are retired, you are saving something (automatically is best) every month. Also make sure that something each month is going towards a charitable cause. It may just come back to bless you!

VE Day, The Infinite Game & Derren Brown

Friday Footnotes

As I am sending this email on the 75th anniversary of VE Day, it seemed right to let that theme run through this week's Friday Footnotes. After all, the sacrifice so many people made during that time is in some way similar to the key workers putting their own lives on the line for the greater good.

What I’ve Been Listen To

What better place to start than Winston Churchill’s speech on VE day, 1945. A man that had such a way with words, he is the third most quoted source in history, after the Bible and Shakespeare. He said "we may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing, but let us not forget for a moment the toils and efforts that lie ahead". You can listen to his speech here.

TED Talk That’s Inspired Me

Simon Sinek is one of my favourite authors; in fact, I am currently reading his latest book ‘The Infinite Game’. In this TED talk, Sinek has a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership - starting with a golden circle and the question: "Why?" His examples include Apple, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Wright brothers. You can watch it here.

What I’ve Been Watching

Would you be willing to sacrifice 1 life to save 5 others? This dilemma is seeing more discussion than ever with the introduction of autonomous cars. You can watch a brief clip about this problem here. What if that life were your own; would you be willing to sacrifice it for the greater good? Would you take a bullet for another person? This is something illusionist, Derren Brown, explored in his brilliant psychological experiment called ‘Sacrifice’. Find out if he can manipulate an ordinary person into taking a bullet for a stranger by watching it here.

Quote of the Week

It would be wrong not to quote Churchill this week, so some of my favourites are:

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

“One always measures friendships by how they show up in bad weather.”

“Things are not always right because they are hard, but if they are right one must not mind if they are also hard.”

Winston Churchill.

Finance Theme I’ve Been Considering

Sacrifice and financial planning often go hand in hand. You sacrifice spending all of your money today to create a better future for yourself. You sacrifice some of your money today to protect you and your family, should the unexpected happen. You sacrifice trying to make a killing in one single investment by diversifying your investments so that you also cannot be killed by any one investment. And finally, you sacrifice time and money today to get your estate in order, so that the people you love do not have a mess to clear up when you are gone and they are more focused on grieving.

Life is about making sacrifices for the greater good. What we can learn from both the World Wars, and the current COVID-19 crisis is that most of the people around us are actually amazing, probably much better than we thought, and that they too are willing to make sacrifices, some big and some small, for the greater good.