goals

The Right Stuff

© Can Stock Photo / LiaKoltyrina

Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book chronicled the elite test pilots from whose ranks the first astronauts were chosen. The title The Right Stuff referred to the combination of mental and physical characteristics required for their work.

According to author Charles Duhigg, the same words apply to people who have reached high levels of effectiveness in business. People who become much more productive do not necessarily get more done—they get the right stuff done. Thinking deeply about the work enables them to focus on the most important elements.

At 228 Main Street, we began focusing a long time ago on our three most important activities. Talking with you to collaborate on your plans and planning is at the heart of our work. Investment research and portfolio management are the other most valuable activities. These are the things that make the most difference—they are the right stuff for us.

We figured out that we needed to develop a staff to take care of the important details of service. Having the right beneficiaries, getting money out to you when needed, preparing the forms and maintaining the files we need simply to be in business—all of these things are vitally important, too.

There are about 10,000 minutes in a week. By focusing our work time on the right stuff, we have a better chance to understand what the right stuff is for you—your most important objectives, your most cherished goals—and help you strive to reach them.

Clients, if you want to talk about your ‘right stuff,’ please email us or call.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

The Problem with Goals

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / imagesbyrob

Scott Adams, creator of the wildly successful comic strip Dilbert, is a man of big ideas. Some of them are fantastic, some of them are questionable, a few of them may be literally insane. However, for all his eccentricity it’s hard to argue with results: over the past three decades Adams has managed to parlay his workplace doodles into a multi-million dollar franchise.

Among his many ideas, there’s one in particular that he credits his success to: he doesn’t believe in setting goals for himself. Instead, he believes in building systems to work towards what he wants. The idea is simple. Most peoples’ goals depend on factors outside their direct control, which leads to frustration. By focusing on what you’re doing to manage those goals, though, you can build a system or framework for trying to achieve what you want. This way, you’re only concerned about the things that you control yourself, rather than worrying about goals that are outside your immediate reach.

For example, suppose a freshly minted high school graduate wants to be a doctor. That goal will take an enormous amount of dedication and training, and no amount of passion or talent is going to replace that. At any given moment, they’re an entire decade away from reaching their goal—it will take them five years of school before they even reach a point with any kind of real hands-on training. When faced with such a distant goal it’s easy to despair of ever reaching it. But while they can’t just up and be a doctor, they can always work on their system for trying to become a doctor. By focusing on their immediate day to day studies instead of their long-term goal, every day is a success. They simply use their system.

We think this makes great life advice in general, but it’s particularly important when it comes to investing. Our goal is to grow our portfolio over time, but what the market does day to day is entirely beyond our control: we can’t force our portfolio to go up. What we can always do, though, is work our system. In our case, this means practicing our three core principles: avoid stampedes in the market, look for the biggest bargains we can find, and own the orchard for the fruit crop. We can’t push a button and make your portfolio grow. But we can practice our investing discipline every day, even when the markets don’t cooperate.