11 important life lessons from the last 11 years

12 July 2023 marks the 11th anniversary of starting my financial planning business.

As you approach any anniversary, it’s always tempting to look back and consider how things have changed and what you may have learned in that period.

In recognition of that, I would like to share with you some lessons I’ve picked up over that time. Here are my 11 lessons. One for each year.

There’s no distinct pattern to them, or any unifying theme, beyond the fact that I think all of them are worth sharing with you.

They are simply a collection of random thoughts and ideas, not necessarily related to financial services. Hopefully there’ll be something that might strike a chord.

1. There are many different ways of looking at a problem

Whether it’s an issue at work or a domestic emergency, problem-solving and having to make important decisions are part and parcel of life.

This means that an effective problem-solving methodology will always stand you in good stead, and it’s worth taking some time to find one that suits you so you’re always able to react to a problem in a considered way.

It’s also worth taking into account that the immediate answer you come up with may not be the right one, or at least the most effective one to deal with the situation at hand.

2. Look for opportunity in the unexpected

Given the upheaval over the last 11 years, one lesson I think we’ve learned is never to assume anything.

If I’d have told you that in that time the UK would leave the European Union, the host of the US Apprentice would become president, and a worldwide pandemic would prevent any overseas travel for the best part of two years, you’d have – at the very least – surely raised a quizzical eyebrow.

External events, admittedly on a lesser scale than those, can affect anyone. The lesson I’ve learned is to look for any potential opportunity in such occurrences.

For example, being forced to holiday in the UK gave many people their first taste of parts of their own country they would never normally have visited.

3. There’s now an app for most things

The first generation of iPhone was launched in 2007, and the first iPad just three years later, so it’s fair to say that technology was hardly in its infancy when I started my business.

But one thing that, like me, you’ve probably noticed is the plethora of apps that have appeared in the last decade, and how much easier day-to-day life is because of them.

Processes such as making a hotel reservation and then changing it, or seeing if your local DIY store has a particular item, you need before you leave home, can now be carried out simply and quickly.

Furthermore, you’ve probably also had a lot of time freed up because of them. My suggestion to you is to make a conscious effort to value that time.

4. It’s important to get your priorities right

If you run your own business, or you’re in any similar position of authority, you’ll know how important it is to effectively prioritise your work.

However, it’s just as important to effectively prioritise from a wider perspective when it comes to other facets of your life such as your career development and, most importantly, your family.

I decided very early on that I would look to cherish the time I spend with my children as they grow up and be prepared to relegate other activity to second place.

After all, you only get to watch them grow up once, so taking steps to ensure you don’t have any regrets can be invaluable.

5. There’s nothing wrong with being impulsive every now and again

Although it may go against the first point about careful decision-making, and a considered approach to solving problems, there’s no harm in the occasional flash of spontaneity.

Sometimes it’s possible to overthink a situation, while the answer is the equivalent of the number you first thought of, or the first place you looked.

Maybe the pandemic has resulted in a sense that things might not be as secure as we’d thought, so it can sometimes be better to take a chance to do something impulsive, rather than end up regretting not doing it.

6. Always be thinking

If you’re anything like me, you’ll constantly be having thoughts and ideas that you’ll want to make a note of for future reference.

As and when you do have ideas, be sure to record them somewhere – even if they appear initially outlandish or extreme.

At some stage in the future, you may review such an idea and it’ll trigger a different thought entirely.

It’s also important to give yourself time to think and analyse issues without any external distractions.

Maybe treat this time as a cumulation of the minutes you’ve saved using the apps you read about earlier.

7. Always be learning

Your education shouldn’t come to an end once you leave school or university.

To my mind, learning should be a constant factor throughout our lives and a continual thirst for knowledge is a valuable trait to have.

It can also pay dividends to keep your mind active and take on new ideas and suggestions, particularly when it comes to your career development.

8. Remember that doing nothing is an activity

It might sound contradictory after some of the other things you’ve read here, but there’s no harm whatsoever in indulging in the occasional periods of doing nothing.

This is especially the case if it’s actually a conscious, active decision, as the expression “doing nothing” contains an active verb.

Giving yourself some time each day to decompress, with no access to your phone or laptop can be invaluable.

One suggestion I’ve seen is that by “switching off”, even for just a short time during the late afternoon, you can create a demarcation between your work and personal lives, particularly if you work from home.

9. Keep looking up, not down

This is quite a specific lesson I learned from a colleague, who spent their career working in the City of London.

If you’re out and about in a busy city, take time to look up rather than adopt the usual tendency to only see right in front of you, although clearly you need to watch out for other pedestrians!

While the scenery at ground-floor level changes all the time, the buildings themselves higher up tend to stay the same.

So, while it might be 2023 at pavement level, higher up it might still be 1954, or even 1758. It’s a fascinating thing to think about and observe.

10. There’s a world on your doorstep

You may have recently read about an urban planning concept known as the “15-minute city”, in which most daily necessities and services, such as work, shopping, education, healthcare, and leisure can be easily reached by a 15-minute walk

It’s received a mixed reaction, but my thinking is to adapt it slightly, by making a point of thinking locally when it comes to shopping and any other goods you need.

Local shops are facing financial challenges in the wake of the pandemic and rising inflation, so any steps you can take to support them must surely be a good thing – especially if you get some exercise in the process.

11. Your health is your biggest asset

Financial planning is all about managing your assets but, ultimately, the biggest asset you have is your health.

Your healthy body gives you the energy and wherewithal to achieve the best possible outcome in all aspects of your life.

This applies just as much to your mental health as well as physical.

There is often a tendency to take good health for granted. Instead, you should nurture it and take active steps to maintain it as far as possible.

Get in touch

If you’d like to talk through any of the issues you’ve read about here, then please get in touch.

You can call me on 07769 156 250.

Please note

The value of your investments (and any income from them) can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested.

Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. Investments should be considered over the longer term and should fit in with your overall attitude to risk and financial circumstances.

Foster Denovo Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.