Woodworking and Investing

Woodworking and Investing

Published On: February 14, 2023

Written by: Ben Atwater and Matt Malick

How are woodworking and investing related? Quite simply, any trade, craft, sport or profession has a similar recipe for effectiveness and success.

In his weekly newsletter, James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, offered words of wisdom by Charles Hayward, a cabinet maker and editor of The Woodworker magazine.

Hayward offers advice on how to succeed in woodworking, but this advice transcends woodworking and applies to succeeding in most endeavors. As soon as we read it, we recognized its application to our field of investing and planning.

While ventures often require technical knowledge and a degree of art, more than anything, success demands process and experience (not to mention some good luck).

Let us examine Hayward’s wisdom (italics) and reflect on it:

“One thing is certain: that, even though the craft is a lifetime’s study, the application of a few simple principles will assuredly bring success in woodworking.

In the first place, never start a job until you know precisely how you are going to do it. Pass its construction step by step through your mind, so that you may hit upon the snags and mentally smooth them out.”

For investing and planning, we must emphasize the importance of knowing and understanding your goals. It is also important that your goals are realistic, especially as you age and approach retirement.

Things will go wrong with your plan. This is where process and experience are vital. The process is far and away most important, but you cannot stick to your process without experience. The winds shift too much and without the requisite experience you will succumb to temptation and nonsense.

“Don’t work hurriedly. Your very keenness may prompt you to rush, but to do so is fatal. Curb your desire to see the thing finished, and always concentrate intently upon the particular bit of the job you have in hand.”

Investing is a long-term endeavor. Although this has become a cliche of sorts, it is nonetheless true. Sure, you will hear anecdotes about people making quick profits, but they may or may not be true and they typically come down to luck. All things being equal, the longer you are in the game, the better you’ll do. Impatience quite literally does not pay.

“In all you do be accurate. No measurement, no cut, no squaring, should be ‘near enough.’ It must be right. For often one inaccuracy becomes the seed of others, and reproduces trouble as the work proceeds.

Finally, do not worry about an honest mistake. Ponder the reason for it and so learn from it. Progress at your own speed from simple job to something more difficult, but never force the pace. At the same time, be just as ambitious as your previous work warrants.”

This gets back to process and executing it with precision and consistency. Of course, that does not mean you won’t make mistakes. And even more likely than a mistake is the realty that your process or method might be ineffective for extended periods of time.

Even GOATs face slumps, but what sets them apart is their wherewithal to keep working at their craft and not give up. If there is a formula for success, that is it, whether it be woodworking or investing.

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