Got Resolutions? (That You Can Actually Keep?)
Well, it’s that time of year again. The time of year where New Year’s Eve indiscretions are now just obscure memories for reflection, as hopeful New Year’s resolutions are being scribbled down on napkins and Post-It notes.
But too often those promising resolutions suffer a fate similar to that age-old agreement between male and female friends to try and be “friends with benefits.” Sure, it sounds like a great idea, and heck, it even works well for the first couple of months.
But sooner or later, reality sets in: you can’t keep coming into the dealership every weekend to test drive the Maserati. Eventually, that sales representative is going to give you a long look in the eyes and politely ask you: “Are you going to @#$%** buy this car or what?”
So how do you turn your New Year’s resolutions into a metallic colored Maserati Gran Turismo with red coral interior?
Or better yet, how can you make New Year’s resolutions that you can actually keep – even when you’re working 80+ hours per week in finance?
The First Step to a Better Resolution is Admitting That You Have a Resolution Problem
Studies show that more than 80% of people fall short of their New Year’s resolutions before the end of February, so how do you keep from being a statistic?
The first step: Don’t confuse dreams with resolutions. I would walk a half mile barefoot across hot coals and shards of glass to own a Maserati, but the dream of owning that type of car at this point in my life is just that: a dream.
If I want that dream to materialize, my resolution should be the intermediate steps I need to take to earn the money necessary to buy that type of car. Resolutions are actually declarative statements toward a dream or goal.
“I want to look like a bodybuilder.” That’s a lofty goal.
“I want to get to the gym three times per week.” That’s a measurable resolution.
“I want to enjoy more of my life.” That’s a very vague goal.
“I want to travel once a month to a new destination.” That’s a practical resolution.
Long story short, a resolution must be a viable and actionable plan.
How to Get Your “Four Weeks Committed” Resolution Chip
“Hi. My name is (Your Name Here), and I have a problem keeping my New Year’s resolutions.”
No problem Mr. or Mrs. “Anonymous.” From ambitious weight loss pledges, to unrealistic professional designation goals, we’ll examine a few common resolutions that go awry and how to prevent that from happening.
My goal is to help you maintain that new resolution from now until December 31st.
On that day, if you’ve sustained your resolution from start to finish, you deserve to celebrate your achievement before the start of a new year. Note: mild indulgence and gluttony are not synonymous.
Auld Lang Syne – Your “Do-Over”
“I’m going to finally escape banking and move to the buy-side this year!”
Yes, you and every other junior banker, trader, salesperson, and equity research analyst.
This seems like a great plan, but you’ll need to get more specific to actually have a chance of pulling this off.
If you walk into a recruiting firm and tell the headhunter that you “want to move to the buy-side,” he or she will realize that there’s zero chance in placing you anywhere given your ambiguous goals.
Before you re-write your resume and spin your experience appropriately, you need to figure out which area you’re most interested in: Private Equity? Hedge Funds? Asset Management?
For the cherry on top, you also need to narrow down your geographical location: Do you want to work in New York? London? Hong Kong? Small town in the middle of nowhere? (Not recommended)
A much better resolution: “I’m going to get into a mid-sized private equity firm that invests in tech or healthcare companies on the west coast of the US.”
And as an added bonus, with that kind of resolution headhunters might start returning your calls, too.
“I’m going to the gym every other day. I’m gonna be jacked by June.”
Here is another resolution that’s too general and completely unrealistic.
Watching vintage Arnold Schwarzenegger weightlifting videos on YouTube can motivate almost anyone to get into the gym and hit the weights.
But remember, Arnold was a professional bodybuilder. Before the hit movie Kindergarten Cop and the public relationship scandal of Shrivergate, Schwarzenegger won multiple Mr. Olympia and Mr. Universe titles!
Your dream can be to work toward eventually looking like the Terminator, but your resolution should be to develop a regular, reasonable schedule for going to the gym.
I would assume that if your resolution starts out by saying, “I want to get to the gym…”, then you’ve probably just learned where the nearest gym is located. You need to take baby steps before you attempt to run at full speed.
A better overall resolution to working out is, “I will go to the gym two times a week for an hour and a half each day.” Making a resolution similar to this one can develop the confidence and consistency needed for you to continue to work out in order to see results.
Remember, your resolutions should be intermediate steps toward a larger goal.
And yes, it’s possible to maintain a regular gym schedule even in investment banking: just focus on intense spurts of exercise, commit to a minimum number of weekly workouts, and take every available opportunity to reach your weekly goal when your work schedule permits.
“I’m going to study for the CFA, CPA, MMA, and the PGA.”
Did I read that correctly?
So in addition to a full-time job, you’re going to study for two major financial designations while simultaneously working on your ground-and-pound fighting style and golf swing? Unless you’ve successfully cloned yourself, get real.
Every year I have friends that seem to think that they’re going to do everything they want to do in their lifetime within the span of one calendar year.
If Rome wasn’t built in a day, how can you expect to fulfill one-fourth of your bucket list in 52 weeks?
Choose one designation to study for and develop a hobby on the side. Studying for one professional designation is tough enough.
Attempting to study for two professional designations in addition to maintaining a fulltime job is just insane. Focus exclusively on one test and once you’ve conquered that task, then you can move on to others.
As far as preparing for the PGA, MMA, or PBA, it’s probably best to choose one of these activities and make it a hobby.
Over the course of the year if you discover that you want to invest more time in your activity, then do so after careful consideration of your time commitment to the other areas of your life.
It’s also a good idea to remember that it may be a bit of a challenge to study for the CFA with a swollen eye or broken forearm.
“I’m going to start day-trading. I’m going to make a fortune so I can quit my day job!”
Or you’re going to lose a fortune if you don’t have a proper trading strategy around your ambition.
If you’re new to the world of day-trading, the first step to success is to familiarize yourself with various strategies (assuming you already know the basics of trading) and pick one: Are you going to focus on a particular sector? What data indicators will you focus on? How will you evaluate performance?
What software will you use? What broker will you select? Do you intend to use margin? All these elements factor into your overall trading strategy.
Trading casually and pledging to make a regular day job out of it are entirely opposite each other. Managing the positions in your IRA does not require the vigilance and active research that is necessary to be a day trader.
In short, day-trading is a full-time job. I have never met a person who has maintained a full-time job and worked successfully as a day trader – and if you’re thinking of starting your own hedge fund, that’s definitely a full-time job.
And for the record, the movie Limitless starring Bradley Cooper was fictional.
“I’m going to break a few bad habits.”
Once again, this resolution is too vague and it probably won’t last more than two months. What exactly are your bad habits? Are they habits or addictions? Are we talking about your addiction to bottle service, or your addiction to psychostimulants?
A popular bad habit that people vow to break over the course of a new year is smoking. Unless you’re a social smoker, smoking is an addiction and very few people can simply just make a New Year’s resolution to quit an addiction.
I know the thought of sitting around in a circle with strangers talking about how many packs you smoke a day, how many shoes you buy on any given weekend, or how many episodes of the latest TV show you watch a day can make most people uncomfortable, but if it helps to break your addiction, go for it.
New Year’s resolutions are about setting intermediate goals to be a better person in your eyes in the immediate future and over the long haul, so if you need help to get to achieve that goal, get help.
There is a laundry list of unhealthy vices and it’s important to distinguish between what is a habit and what may be an addiction.
Resolutions can reform habits, not addictions. That, is unless you make a resolution to go to “(Your Addiction Here) Anonymous.”
So raise your wine glasses; here’s to a New Year filled with promise, better resolutions, and great expectations.
Hopefully you didn’t resolve to drink less. I can’t support that.
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