How Success in Exercise Is Like Success in Investing

These two endeavors come down to the exact same working principles – hard work, discipline, determination, and focus on a long-term goal.

Every so often my dad used to sit us down as kids and talk about the importance of investing. I always rolled my eyes when he would start his saving lectures, but deep down, I knew he was right.

Still, the phrases compound interest and mutual fund don’t really have a lot of excitement and value to a teenager and so many of us end up missing the boat when it comes to saving and investing. Similarly, we are taught at an early age the importance of health, wellness, and exercise. Even as kids, we know that exercise is good for us, yet many of us get sidetracked with other more “pressing” issues.

Success in Money and Health Is Similar

With money and health being near the top of the food chain when it comes to life satisfaction and well-being, it’s a wonder we don’t learn more about them as children. Many people graduate from high school (or even college) without a proper understanding of how to balance a checkbook or read a financial statement. Similarly, many adults don’t have a good understanding of what ingredients are in the food they eat or how to exercise properly for optimum health and wellness. While everyone has a different definition of success, it’s hard to argue that financial and physical well-being aren’t two pillars of the equation.

While talent and being born into the right situation helps, the qualities expressed through successful investing are a lot like the qualities expressed in maintaining optimal fitness. Being physically fit is a lot like being financially fit. These two endeavors come down to the exact same working principles – hard work, discipline, determination, and focus on a long-term goal.

Here’s how successful investing and finding success in fitness are similar:

What’s Behind the Goal Is More Important Than the Goal

“Once I can retire or have a million dollars, I’ll be happy” sounds a lot like “when I have a killer body, I’ll find happiness.” The more you focus on the end result of money or fitness, the less fulfilling it is. In a perfect world, money would be the byproduct of passion and doing what you love.

Same goes for fitness. Fitness should be the expression of grace, joy, and beauty. Fitness is the vessel with which we use our bodies to do something. When amassing money or simply being fit and ripped is the goal, you never get there. Finding the passion, purpose, and joy behind the goal is the only thing that will keep it lasting.

Invest Daily and Wisely, Don’t Succumb to Fads

I was a dot-com-er. My fellow dot-com-ers and I felt we were going to get rich overnight. Most of us didn’t. Instead, I lost a job. But, fortunately, I also learned a valuable lesson. Fads aren’t based on sound principles and as a result they don’t last. Besides, people who get rich overnight typically don’t keep their money anyhow. It’s like those people who lose thirty pounds in thirty days or those who hop on the latest fitness bandwagon – the success never lasts.

You want to get rich? Invest daily and wisely. Save a little every day and sock it away in a diverse portfolio. You want to get fit? Run, bike, swim, lift weights. Find a sport you love to play. Be active every day. Five-minute abs are a pipe dream, just like a lottery ticket or the next financial bubble. Buyers beware.

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Start Early

Dad, you were right. Like most kids, I wish I had listened more to my dad when it came to things like investing. Of course, I am sure there are kids out there who wish they had listened to me fifteen years ago when I was lecturing them about the importance of exercising early and often. Go to any financial institution and they will preach the gospel my pops was talking about. It’s never too late to start, but it’s hard to catch up when you start late.

Starting early pays higher dividends. Starting early helps establish the habit. The same holds true with fitness. Studies show that those who display a higher level of fitness earlier on have fewer health complications later in life. A study by the Cooper Institute followed over 18,000 men and women for a 26-year period. Those who were the most fit at midlife were the least likely to die later from heart disease, diabetes, coronary artery disease, and other conditions.

Balance Your Portfolio

Guys like to lift and women like to do cardio. Runners like to run and swimmers like to swim. We like to invest in where we’ve had our highest returns. We do what we know and we play to our strengths. It’s human nature to be a creature of habit, but it also limits our results.

It’s fine to have your bread and butter, but balance is the key to growth. Even the world-champion Seattle Seahawks practice yoga as a part of their football-training regimen. Most of my setbacks in fitness have come from overtraining – that is, investing in the same thing over and over again. For optimal success, diversify.

Learn From Your Setbacks

Markets crash. Stocks, real estate, currencies, and even governments have down periods. Your body will also suffer setbacks. The harsh reality is that people lose their jobs, their homes, and their life savings. They also tear their ACLs and injure their backs.

But these defeats will turn into victories if you’re able to lean into the pain and grow as a result. We learn to break the cycle of our failures and we also learn to find our true essence and authentic selves.

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Prepare for Depreciating Assets

Houses and cars require maintenance and so to does your body. Be prepared to do lots of maintenance with the ultimate caveat that all physical assets depreciate. Acceptance of this depreciation will lead to growth in other arenas.

Find Mentors, Experts, and Advisors

Leaders know that true leadership is knowing you don’t know everything. Bill Gates had Paul Allen. Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak. Michael Jordan had Scottie Pippen, and Phil Jackson. If it’s success you’re looking for, whether it’s dollars or health, find the best (and most trusted) professionals possible to assist you on your journey.

You Can’t Take It With You

Money and exercise help us feel happier and imbue us with a greater sense of freedom, without question. Still, circling back to your motive is essential. Our human qualities are our true lasting impression and the mark we leave on this world. Our muscles will atrophy, our bodies will diminish, and even if our coffers are lined with stacks of $100 bills, you can’t take it with you. Money and fitness are important and perhaps even vital to success for many. That said, the qualities behind your fitness and your money are what matter in the long run.


1. “New Study Shows Higher Midlife Fitness is Key to Healthier Aging” The, Aug 27, 2012.

Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.

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