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Sleep on It

Learning to tolerate uncertainty starts the night before.

Carl Richards, 10/19/2017

A major part of a real financial advisor’s job is to give mission-critical advice in the face of irreducible uncertainty. No matter what stories we tell ourselves, there is no way to get rid of the uncertainty that is inherent in our work.

We all have a level of uncertainty we can tolerate, and if things are in that range, then things are fine. But then something changes. It can be anything: The markets get scary, a key staff member leaves, regulatory change, even something at home. Don’t seem like much at first, but then these spikes of uncertainty go beyond what we can handle. It only takes a few of these, and we’re off looking for a “less stressful” job.

Uncertainty like the sort we must deal with takes a toll on our emotions, and it has ended more than a few careers. But because we can’t get rid of it, our best option is to increase our ability to tolerate it. You can think of this as becoming more resilient if you like, but I think of it as making myself harder to kill. The good news? There are some simple (not to be confused with easy) ways to accomplish this goal.

For a few years now, I’ve focused on becoming harder to kill. I’ve done crazy things like taking three-minute, freezing cold showers for 100 days straight. It worked wonders, but there’s a better place to start. Now, before I tell you, I need to warn you: it’s going to sound so simple you’ll be tempted to ignore me.


It’s sleep.

Yes, sleep. It’s that thing you should try to get at least eight hours of each night. Sleep is my secret weapon for both business and life. After all, we should understand the massive power of small, incremental behavior done consistently over a long period (compound interest, anyone?). That’s the power of high-quality sleep. It’s so simple, but it’s not easy.

Most of us have habits that are antithetical to sleep. I’ve had many of my “Master of the Universe” friends express disdain for even the idea of getting sleep. Contrary to the belief that sleep will detract from our productivity, the research shows the opposite. Sleep is a force multiplier. It makes us better at everything we do. Plus, given the emotional stress that this industry demands, it should be a priority.

Try just a few simple things.

> Shut down your devices at least 90 minutes before bed.
> Turn down the lights a bit.
> Swap alcohol or coffee for herbal tea.
> Get to sleep at the same time.
> Aim for eight hours of sleep.

Just test it for one month. I’m telling you, it will make you a better human (which is what I care about). It will also increase your ability to tolerate uncertainty, so you can be a better financial professional (which is what will matter most to your clients).

The author is a freelance contributor to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.

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