In 2020, Cast your Vote for THIS PERSON

David Larson |

I love going to conferences, so a few years ago when the chance to head down to Charlotte came up, I excitedly headed south with a colleague for a few days of learning and networking.  Once the registration was confirmed I went to book a hotel room and was shocked by the cost.  So of course, I jumped on the opportunity to save a few hundred dollars by browsing online and booking a hotel just a few miles away.  Score!

The drive from the Shenandoah Valley to Charlotte is not terrible...but it is not easy, either.  Five hours of battling tractor-trailers will wear anyone down, so when my head hit the pillow that night, I anticipated an evening of rest and a day of learning to follow.  But there was a problem...the sleep I needed so desperately after a long day on the road never came. 

Why, you may ask?  When I booked the room, I had not even considered whether or not the hotel allowed pets.  I also did not anticipate that the people in the room down the hall would decide to go out partying and leave their yapping dog for all of her sleepy neighbors to enjoy.

I tossed and rest and no relief.  I called the front desk...again...and again...and again.  Thankfully, I was more polite than my hallmates, and before too long we were the chosen party to relocate to another room a few floors up.

What does this have to do with investing during an election year?

NOISE is all around us.  It distracts us from what is most important.  It causes us stress and anxiety.  It can lead to restless nights and to bad decisions.

Sometimes noise is unexpected and we cannot control it, like in the case of a barking dog.  But all too often we invite this terrible distraction into our lives willingly.

“No, that is not me!”  May be your response.  “Why would I invite a distraction into my life?”

But the fact remains that many of us excessively consume cable news and social media to our detriment.  As a result, we make poor decisions with our money and with our lives, we have more anxiety and depression. 

Without question, 2020 has been an extremely challenging year for many of us. A pandemic is sweeping across our world, and we do not know how much longer before a vaccine will be available. Racial unrest and political divisiveness seem to be everywhere. And on top of that, we have an election coming up that can potentially bring even more uncertainty to our country and to the world.

These issues are extremely important to our future and we all should be educated and informed.  Burying our heads in the sand might reduce some of the noise, but it will clearly not fix any of our problems. 

The 24-hour news cycle which has been in full force for decades has now been put on steroids in the new era of social media.  Gone are the days of Walter Cronkite informing the country of the most important events. Now everyone has an opinion, and everyone with an opinion can very easily share their thoughts with the world. How do you know who you can trust in an era where news is everywhere? News should be about facts and not about opinions.

Let’s get one thing out on the table. Media outlets and social media companies exist for one reason: to bring in advertising dollars.  Period.  Sure, many of them have a responsibility to report accurate news and to maintain their reputation, but at the end of the day advertising dollars pay the bills, and more views equal more dollars. Sensational stories and extreme opinions bring home the bacon – fear sells.

We all should pay close attention to the information that runs across our smartphones and captures our thoughts. If you care about your physical health, you eat a well-balanced diet and get exercise. You do not eat junk food multiple times per day, and you should not mindlessly browse social media throughout the day either.  You have not spoken to your high school sweetheart in over 40 years.  Why do you care what she thinks about the state of the world?

Excessive media consumption only leads to more stress and bad decisions. Many studies have shown that depression comes with overuse of social media.  When you are consumed by worry, you are more inclined to make bad investment and life decisions.

Of course you want to stay informed, so what should you do? Here is your game plan to stay informed while having less stress:

  1.  Write down two or three trusted news outlets, and commit to limiting your news consumption to only these sources.
  2. Set aside specific time each day for social media. Do not mindlessly browse for minutes or hours on end. Be focused about your consumption and be very intentional. Mute or unfollow the fear-mongers.
  3. Check yourself:  Be mindful and aware that our phones are designed to be addictive and to capture more of your time.  When you use your phone mindlessly, YOU are the product being sold online.

Life is too short to spend it worrying about every trouble and all the things that could go wrong. If you would not invite a barking dog into your hotel room, why would you welcome people into your world that cause you to be more stressed?

At the end of the day, after a long day at work, which decision will you make?


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