Control The Controllables

Life in the NFL and stock market corrections have much in common; it can be brutal and often short.  An NFL player’s career is tenuous at best. The waiver wire or serious injury is always just a play away.  Successful athletes move past things they cannot control.

The same advice holds true for investors.

My friend, NFL Punter, Jeff Locke gives terrific advice on why ignoring short-term market noise is a great idea:


I had a bad season in 2015 – the worst of my football career. The Vikings ended the year with a crushing first-round playoff loss. I was in a bad place mentally and continued to feel sorry for myself for months. I avoided social media and I had my friends take my phone to delete and block the really bad mentions and trolls.

In the NFL, any phone call from an unknown number could be a call to “come to the facility and bring your tablet/playbook.” Any walk off the practice field or out of a meeting could be met by someone with the team saying you’ve been released or traded. These two scenarios bounced around my head all offseason. Heading into the final year of my contract, I needed a big change – and fast.

Control the Controllables

My sports psychologist gave me this phrase and helped turn it into my mantra. We would shorten it to “C&C” for easy use in the heat of the moment. It helped turn around my mindset and gave me a way to redirect my focus to the important things on and off the field.

Stock market “corrections” (and the news that follows) reminds me of the parallels of applying C&C to investing, and personal finance – not just football.

I make it a point not to ride the emotional roller coaster of an NFL game. This is what brings in the revenue, but I try to be the same stoic guy on the bench whether we just fumbled late in the 4th quarter or took an interception to the house. The rollercoaster that is the stock market can be approached the same way.

Daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly fluctuations shouldn’t have an impact on the long-term investor with a thought-out financial plan. You have no control over the swings. You control having a plan and sticking with it.

In the realm of personal finance, it always comes back to everyday saving and spending choices. How much you can save and invest, and choosing to live beneath your means are very much within your control and has as much of an impact as returns.

Curbing impulsive spending and saving on big-ticket purchases will help more people than selecting the best mutual fund or ETF. It’s hard to put the credit card on ice and get rid of your one-click buying options, but these are the difficult, effective strategies within your control.

I still have my moments of relapse. Screaming coaches, a big punt return, and blocked punts make the heart race and mind wander. I want to adjust or “fix” things that don’t need to be touched. I check myself as soon as I realize I’m out of sync and use C&C to get back in my routine for the next punt.

The next time you find yourself getting worked up over unrealized losses, interest rates, or earnings reports pause for a second. Say a quiet “C&C” and remind yourself that you don’t control any of the noise. Block it out and be ready for the next play. Focus on controlling what you can control.