I had a dream last night where I was visiting with students in a college finance class. It was casual conversation about careers and post-graduation plans until I saw a prompt on the whiteboard. It was a chance to enter an essay contest. In 50 words or less, alumni had to answer the essay question, whereas undergrad students could take as much room as they like.
I should pause here to clarify that yes, I do in fact have dreams this vivid. So, here was the question I created in my dream:
If our entire financial system was competing in the Olympics, who would win the bronze?
I immediately started overhearing students discussing how AA versus AAA rated bonds are ranked. “Which one is better, again?” they asked each other. The girl at my table asked me to review what she wrote, but I had to write my response first. This is what I wrote:
As with most competitions, the winners and losers are determined by the judges. What Olympic competition are we talking about? Who are the judges? What are the metrics being used to evaluate the contestants? How might the rules of the game evolve over time to challenge future contestants?
I guess in my dream, I found it more valuable to throw questions back at the judges with which to score other essays, than for me to try and win the contest myself. Or maybe I just didn’t have the right answer ready. Either way, I’m sure I snuck my essay at the top of the pile so the judges of this competition might read my rebuttal before scoring the rest of the entries.
Think about the different Olympic competitions and what we expect from each one. Gymnastics: grace and perfection. Diving: form and execution. Running: speed and speed alone. The undisputed, most important element in each of these competitions: heart. The heart of the contestants is the determining factor in every competition. It has no official line on the rubric, but it absolutely shows up in every evaluated element.
What is the heart of the financial system you know? What is the heart of the financial system you want to know?
Go ahead and try this quick exercise. Write down the two or three variables you would consider while evaluating some financial system that your money is circulating through. It could be your checking account or your 401(k). How does heart show up in these financial systems? How might the lack or presence of heart in these systems affect the future of your finances?
Your money is in the middle of a worldwide competition, much like the Olympics. In which ways might instilling heart in this competition help guide contestants to a more likely and deserved victory?
And the best news: the rules of this race are still being determined. At the end of the day, we each get to decide what winning looks like.
Casey Dilloway is a co-founder of Community Sourced Capital. He took several finance classes in his undergraduate business education, but didn’t really fall in love with its potential until studying it for his Sustainable MBA at the Bainbridge Graduate Institute. You can follow Casey on twitter at @CaseyJD.