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Lessons, Not Losses

I’ve been training jiu jitsu (sometimes referred to as Gracie Jiu Jitsu or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) since I was 18 years old. I was drawn to martial arts for many reasons: the idea of being able to fight, the accomplishment of having a black belt, and the level of physical fitness that is traditionally associated with that rank. Over the years, I’ve competed in many rulesets, including jiu jitsu, MMA, kickboxing, and submission wrestling.

When you’re preparing for a competition of any kind, there is a tremendous amount of preparation. Your training regimen typically increases in intensity and/or volume, as you try to get as much mat time as possible. In addition to the skill-based training, athletes looking to win will add in sprints, HIIT training, weight training, and other methods to ensure your body is in peak condition when it’s time to fight. These precipitate diet changes so that your weight is within the bounds of your weight class, and you have the energy to keep up with all of the training increases. You spend time game planning and visualizing, preparing your mind for not only the competition itself, but the nerves leading up to the tournament. For bigger competitions, you’ll often have teammates or family members who are there to watch you, which adds even more pressure to the day. After weeks or months of intense work, specifically for one purpose, competition day arrives. 

It’s tough to describe competition day to someone who has never done it. After arriving at the venue, checking in, and making weight, there is a lull that occurs where the only thing that’s left to do is fight through your divisions. . . but that may be several hours from happening, so you have to fill the time. One of the most bizarre realities of a jiu jitsu tournament is that you spend most of the day waiting for your match and socializing. You’ll sit and joke with teammates, chat with friends from other schools, listen to music, and just pass the time. However, while you’re running out the clock, there’s a constant reminder in the back of your mind that you’ll be fighting another human being, and the time is drawing ever closer. Being an impatient person, it’s always a huge relief when it’s time to compete. 

You step on the mat, the match starts, and you’re now in a fight with someone that will last 5-10 minutes, or until one of you makes the other give up. 

One of the best things about jiu jitsu is that under virtually all rulesets, there is always a winner and a loser. One of the worst things about jiu jitsu is that you can put in the insane amount of work to prepare, travel to the venue, and lose. There’s no feeling quite like having the referee raise your hand in victory, or being on top of the podium after a day of hard-fought matches. There’s no feeling quite like losing to another person and having to accept that regardless of how it happened, you lost, and nothing can change that now. 

How people handle those losses tells you everything about them. When we lose, it hurts on some level. The first few times, there’s anger that you didn’t perform better, shame from a feeling of letting down your team or instructors, maybe embarrassment for going out and getting lit up in front of your friends and family. For some, that bitter mixture of emotions pushes them to never compete again. For others, they go back to the drawing board, figure out what went wrong, and prepare for the next one. The attitude of any successful competitor is that these are lessons, not losses. 

The latter is the attitude we need to have about our money. 

Many of our clients come to us and talk about never wanting to lose money. They’ve worked so hard to save up the funds to invest, and the thought of their investments decreasing in value is terrifying. While completely understandable, this approach has one ironic flaw:

If your approach to investing is based on never losing money, you will lose money to inflation and opportunity cost. 

The nature of investing is harnessing risk. You take your money and place it in some type of investment (stocks, bonds, real estate, ETFs, options, etc.), and expect to it offer a positive return. To get any type of positive return, we have to accept some form of risk. Companies go bankrupt, currency can become devalued. That’s just the nature of the game. During the course of your life, you’re almost guaranteed to have some investment(s) that lose money. That’s a scary statement, but just like in jiu jitsu you have to accept that risk, do everything you can to minimize it (such as diversify your portfolio and have appropriate insurance), and move forward. 

Don’t let fear of loss cripple your finances. Understanding that markets go up and down is crucial to investing, and sometimes that means you have a loss. To make the most of your finances, you need to treat those as lessons, not losses.


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