11/20/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Mar 17, 2015

More Tips For Surviving The Financial Shakeup

Today we bring you the second in a series of tips for surviving the complex, fast changing world of finance. Each article offers two broad categories of tips, one focused on the practical, financial side of the challenges you might be facing and the other on the inner, more emotional challenges that often arise.

We invite you to join in providing useful thoughts to other readers by posting your tips and suggestions as comments to these articles.

Financial Impact: If you don't understand it, don't invest in it

Ram Charan suggests that one of the biggest problems he encounters when working with executive teams of major corporations is the senior executive who can't explain how the business makes money! WOW! If a senior executive doesn't understand, what risk might you be taking when you invest in that company?

How do you go about investing in a company? Do you understand the industry? Do you understand the particular business? How much do you know about how they make money? About their strategy? About their ability to execute?

Over the years, I have pretended to understand markets, stocks, finance and various aspects of succeeding in the world of investments. I have done OK in certain investments, but typically only for a brief period, until my lack of knowledge about the true fundamentals of the business, commodity or industry came home to roost!

Marshall Thurber once said something to me that stuck then and comes roaring back now in even greater context and with even more impact. He told me that most people get in trouble in the world of finance and investing because they don't understand what he called "the rules of money."

His basic message was that money is created or lost according to a set of principles that most people don't understand. If you stick your money into some kind of investment without truly understanding how that particular investment works, you can pretty much guarantee you will come out losing in the end. In 1980, I bought Krugerands at $820 per ounce, only to watch them lose over half their value in 18 months. Buying those 10 gold coins was a huge investment for me and I sure did hope good things were going to follow. Guess who didn't understand the gold market?

This is a potentially bitter pill to swallow. What we are saying here is that you can become a "victim" of your own ignorance. Are you relying on your knowledge of how an investment works, or are you relying on a combination of hope tied to a good "story" about the investment is supposed to work?

Emotional Impact: Know the difference between who you are and your bank account

A few months back, I wrote about the difference between what people focus on in life and what they hope to gain from it. I called this the difference between Symbols (what we focus on) and Experience (what he hope will be true if we get the Symbol). You might want to read this short piece on Symbols vs. Experience.

Richard Easterlin, an economist at the University of Southern California , suggests that happiness resides in a tension between psychology and economics. He argues that people often make decisions assuming that more income, comfort, and material possessions will make them happier. However, an increase in income doesn't necessarily bring lasting happiness because once you get more, you may create a new standard of how much is enough.

On the psychological side, a focus on family, health and relationships may prove to be infinitely more sustainable. Why? One answer is that people don't tend to create constantly rising expectations in their relationships and the value they get from them in quite the same way they do around rising financial circumstances.

If you tend to identify with how much money or other material possessions you have, then you may find that you are constantly heaving up and down in terms of your happiness levels. However, even if you are currently stuck in this kind of experience, I'll bet there have been times in the past few days when you "forgot" about the current "crisis," and found yourself in moments of peace, enjoyment or just plain relaxation.

Here's a simple self assessment "test." Have you ever had a thought that you wished you weren't thinking? Have you ever had a feeling that you wished you weren't feeling? So who is it that notices?

My suggestion is that who you truly are is independent from your circumstances. Part of the question becomes to whom do you pay most attention - the part of you that has thoughts or feelings about your circumstances, or the one who notices?

Take this one step further. If a person becomes injured, perhaps even to the extent that they lose a limb, an eye or become paralyzed, is the person now less a person than they were before the injury? Obviously not.

So the question becomes, where do you place your focus? On your thoughts, feelings, or material possessions? Or on the person who is there through it all? The more you can become aware of who you truly are, the more choices you will have in terms of creating an experience of well being no matter what happens around you.

We do need to look further at the fact that you may have lost your job, your house, your bank account and what you can do about it. The first part, however, is to begin to notice the difference between who you are and your circumstances. In earlier posts, we call that the "Power of Awareness." Stay tuned!

Please do comment on this post with tips of your own. We will be looking for more useful tips to develop in the days ahead.

I'd love to hear from you. Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at)


If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my book, Workarounds That Work. You'll be glad you did.

You can buy Workarounds That Work here.

Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at)

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