Coaching Q1 2020 – How did it go?

Hi dear readers.

If you’re following this blog since at least November 2019, you might remember that I launched a free career and financial coaching program for Q1 2020.

I got overwhelmed with requests: I received around 50 applications within the first week.

I still receive, at least once a week, “late applications” or request to be included in an eventual next round. I feel honored for all the attention this offer got. Sincerely, thank you all.

I picked six person and worked with them since January 2020 until a couple of weeks ago.

The first coaching program is over now 🙂

This post is to document how the experience went for me and for my “coachees”, which results we achieved, some feedback fro me, and what’s next.

I tried to report their feedback as verbatim as possible. Only cleaning typos, removing personally identifiable information, and removing some redundancy here and there.

If any of you (coachees) wants me to add/remove something, please contact me privately and I’ll do.

Participants

I’m obviously not going to disclose coachees personally identifiable information, I’m just creating fictional character for them

  • Mr. P: male, single, slightly younger than I am (I turned 43 few days ago…), European (neither Swiss nor Italian), resident in Switzerland, working for a Bank. Challenges: financial “analysis paralysis” and put personal finances in order.
  • Mr. Reset: male, divorced with a young children, slightly older than me, European resident in Switzerland, working in Big Pharma. Challenges: high salary (200-250k CHF/Year) but a lot of financial mistakes in the past. A non-peacefully and very expensive divorce. A financially complicated situation that brought him into debts. Needed a financial reset: honest assessment, realistic perspective, and some guidance.
  • Mr. MoL (meaning of life): male, single, Italian living in Czech Republic, around age 30, not high income but very frugal (7-9k EUR yearly spending, >80% Saving Rate), working as a Data Scientist. Challenges: start investing but scared by the markets, find next steps in life, setting goals and find motivation, finding like minded people. Career. Investing. Life Philosophy. Meaning of Life. A lot of things.
  • Mr. Hustle: male, in a relationship, Italian living in Italy, youngest of the pack (almost a couple of decades younger than me), working in IT in IT (no pun intended), many side hustles, frugal. Challenges: long term career decisions, entrepreneurship, passion&purpose, uncertainty.
  • Mrs. Crêpes: female, French national, married with 2 kids, living in Switzerland, younger than me but still Gen X, good combined salary (>200k CHF). High Net Worth (>1M CHF). Challenges: validate important financial decisions, asset allocation, and more. Coaching directions changed a lot during Q1.
  • Drs. J: female, Dutch national, scientist (Academia), living in Switzerland, married with a kid, younger than me but still Gen X, good combined salary (>200k CHF), Saving rate ~50%, very good Net Worth (~500k CHF). Challenges: facing career uncertainty and planning for worst case scenario (career change, goodbye academia), and “investing paralysis”, unable to start investing.

A very interesting pack of Gen X and Gen Y (and gene X and gene Y), with career questions along with financial questions (icing on the cake: philosophical and psychological questions).

All of them were in very good financial conditions, i.e. a job, a good salary, a good saving rate, a frugal attitude. A good starting kit. The only one not being in such a good spot was Mr. Reset, but given his good salary and all the steps toward minimalism and frugality he took before contacting me I knew it would have been an easy fix.

Those who really need financial advice can’t find me. I’m invisible to the average person. Sadly though, since they’re preyed by banksters and sharks dressed by “true financial advisor”.

Coaching Logistics

I met 3 or 4 times with each one, mostly digitally but I’ve been able to meet in person two of them (Mr. Reset and Mrs. Crêpes), and I hope to meet the others sooner or later 🙂

The online meetings have been held on Whereby, formerly known as Appear.in. I like this product, and it’s free (for single rooms up to 4 participants), web only, no account required. I have my personal room registered for free (whereby.com/retireinprogress), and maybe I’ll log in every once in a while, when I have time (mostly in the evenings after 9pm). If you want to meet me, try to knock the door and maybe I’m online and will let you in 🙂

The meetings lasted longer than they should have been, and that’s because I love to waste other people’s time 😀

Seriously, first meetings lasted 2-3 hours, because I wanted to know a lot about my coachees, not just “why are you here?”. I intended the coaching as a way to form “friendships with benefits”, not playing doctor with them.

RIP!! What the hell are you talking about?? Do you know you made not one but TWO sexual metaphors??

Haha I just realized that twenty seconds after having written it down 😀

Anyway, the concept is that in general I hate hierarchies, and that’s probably why I’m unemployable. That translates in my repulsion to establish asymmetric relationships. Which in this project translated into a desire to establish friendship before anything else.

That’s also why even though the project is over I want to know how things will be going in the future for them, and have a beer or <insert your favorite drink here> with each one of them 🙂

Anyway, apart from first meeting, the structure of the following meetings was not fixed or clear, and that was – as we’ll see – one of the most criticized points of this coaching program.

The meetings were more or less a month apart: early January, early February, early March and early April.

After the first meeting I assigned some “homework” and/or asked for a commitment to take an action in the right direction. In some cases the pattern repeated in the second meeting. Third and fourth ones ended up being mostly about accountability, strategy refinement, a lot of questions (for me to them and vice versa), and outlining “next steps” for them.

Circumstances

Well, Q1 2020 has not been the quieter time of my (and your) life.

On my side: early January told my manager I wanted to quit Hooli, early February I handed my resignation notice, April 1st I became (f?)unemployed. Not the easiest time of my life 🙂 I’ve probably put less than 100% of me in this Coaching project, and I apologize for that.

In the meantime the entire world faced a Pandemic and we all enjoyed The Hammer. And a 35% stock market crash which personally meant -150k top-to-bottom (I was low on stocks by mistake at market top), just 5 weeks after having drawn my plans for the future.

March 2020 has been the craziest month in the history of Wall Street, in terms of volatility.

Not the best time to score a few points on my Zen Mastery scale 🙂

This might have impacted the quality and the results of the coaching program.

Let’s digress a bit.

During very first meeting with at least 3 or 4 of them, I remember me telling them “oh, come on, just let go of your fears and invest something! Start small… 5k. Pick an index: World, ACWI, US Total Stock Market, S&P500, even Stoxx600 Europe, whatever. It doesn’t really matter now. Just take action and invest something and see how it feels. We can discuss about asset allocation at a later time 😉

And then market dropped 30+%

But as I’ve told you all, you should be celebrating right now!

Well, you should have been celebrating back then, since the markets are recovering too fast…

But the point is… if you’ve been scared by markets, and you’re young and/or you have a good salary and saving rate, and you’re starting right now investing, a market crash of the size we had (still have?) is the best thing that could happen to you!

You get to experience what it means, on the psychological side, to (virtually) lose your hard earned money. And as a plus, your investing journey starts with lower valuations, i.e. you got a chance to buy stocks at a huge discount.

If you’re asking Mr RIP to help you setting up your investing plans, you should know that we’re here for the long term.

On the investing side, I think I failed to infect most of you with the long term value.

At least 4 of you were not invested at all, scared by markets, but when it came to think about investments:

  • Mr. P purchased and sold a passive ETF in March, losing 10% in few days, if I remember correctly. Then jumped in stock picking.
  • Drs. J fantasized about inverse leveraged ETFs.
  • Mr. Reset jumped in the Crude Oil sector before this happened:

Both Mr. P and Mr. Reset know they have done “stupid things with money” in the past, but they have hard time sticking with a passive, boring strategy for the next 20 years.

This is something I should keep in mind, and should try to improve if I want to help people investing their money.

People fear the stock market because they perceive it as gambling. And if you chase “get rich quick” formulas, well, it actually IS gambling.

Ouch RIP, so far it seems this coaching thing has been a disaster… I’m sorry for that!

No, it wasn’t a disaster at all 🙂

I’m pointing out few “negative” things as a note to my future self, but the overall experience has been rewarding for both me and my coachees. I’ve received great feedback, that I’m going to share with you in a minute 🙂

Even a pig can climb a tree… when flattered!

I’ve asked all my coachees to fill a form with the following six questions:

  • Any detail about your situation you want to share? (job type, income range, age range, family status, residence, citizenship…)
  • Which challenges are/were you facing? What did you expect from these coaching sessions?
  • Did the coaching experience help you achieving your goals? How? Why?
  • What has your coach (the awesome Mr RIP) done well?
  • What could your coach (the awesome Mr RIP) have done better?
  • Any other feedback for your coach (the awesome Mr RIP)?

Answers to first question have been used to create my six fictional characters.

In the next section I’ll analyze the feedback about the experience (second and third question) of each participant.

After that I’ll analyze the feedback about the coach (fourth, fifth, and sixth question) in a more or less aggregated way

Expectations vs Reality

I’ll copy here more or less unedited (thanks Mr Hustle for the feedback in Italian language 😀 ) their feedback.

My commentary and “feedback on their feedback” is inline, in the following syntax:

[RIP: italic, within square brackets, start with “RIP:”]

Mr. P

Which challenges are/were you facing? What did you expect from these coaching sessions?

Main challenges were analysis paralysis, overthinking each step and a HUGE, DEEP FEAR of losing my precious savings!!!

Reading your blog helped me with:

  • Put my finances in check and order.
  • Open IB account.
  • Making the transition from theory to practice (now I know ICWA, VT, and another cool ETFs, plus look at fees charged by brokers and other service providers).

Expectations from the coaching:

  • Meet the real deal and learn with your experience, both the financial and the emotional/mental side of things! (I also went trough a tough period myself during 2017).
  • Someone who would hold my hand and help me giving the first baby steps.
  • Someone who helped me conquer my paralyses and fears.

Did the coaching experience help you achieving your goals? How? Why?

Yes, they were fully achieved and even more! Why? because:

  • I learnt from your experience.
  • I got to see the point of view of a FIRE practitioner and the results achieved so far (and they are awesome!)
  • Gain the confidence to start putting some money to work.
  • Be able to do my own assessment of where I am, where I want to go, possible paths to get there.

[RIP: well done Mr. P, but my fear as I said previously is that you’re still too emotional and impulsive. I remember you had a a-ha moment when I told you “hey, do you realize the money you’re putting into this instrument you’re not going to touch them for the next 20 years?”. You had a revelation moment, but then you jumped in stock-picking and market timing. Fight your problem with greed. If you want to learn from my experience (which is just 4 years of not-really-exemplary investing experience, plus 1.5 years top-to-bottom during dotcom bubble explosion) focus on learning this: investing should be boring. If you’re excited and check your account everyday you’re doing it wrong. And yes, I’m talking to myself now 😀 ]

Mr. Reset

Which challenges are/were you facing? What did you expect from these coaching sessions?

I aim to re center and focus on goals and steps after the storm of an expensive divorce. A lot of confusion, fog and not clear goals. I expected an objective assessment and neutral perspective on what is feasible and realistic.

[RIP: I like the emphasis on “objective assessment” and “feasibility”]

Did the coaching experience help you achieving your goals? How? Why?

Yes. Mr RIP helped me to clarify the real situation, assessing Net Worth elements and cash flow.

Steps were clear and structured: assess current situation, capabilities and goals; clarify all open items; set simple rules and goals; track consistently.

He has been very clear and straight forward in the assessment of some bias and bad habits (e.g. how a past negative track record in trading could tempt me to take a second try in a risky game).

Don’t rush while achieving your 10 years goals.

[RIP: Mr Reset is the one who I picked first. I could’t see myself not helping him. It’s probably been the easiest one to help, because the goals were clear and all centered around personal finance, and financial assessment. Only at the end of our coaching experience we talked seriously about investing. He first had to plan how to get out of debts, reduce his expenses, get rid of crappy investments before discovering he had some money to spare (and a lot more to come, thanks to a salary in line – slightly higher – than mine at Hooli). Now you have an easy and boring road to financial abundance. Your only enemy is – like for Mr. P – your greed. Do boring things. Buy boring ETFs. It’s enough to not do stupid things and your financial future will be very rosy]

Mr. MoL

[RIP: This is incredibly long, but who am I to judge?]

Which challenges are/were you facing? What did you expect from these coaching sessions?

Challenges:

  • Scared of the market and personal investments (solved)
  • Setting goals and finding motivation (first step forward)
  • Understanding personal identity and challenges (shy step forward, life-long WIP)
  • Finding similar people willing to discuss tough and interesting life topics.

Expectation:

  • Insights on how to invest and motivation to start, some technical advice
  • Insights from an experienced person with a similar path of life
  • Find connection with like minded person

Did the coaching experience help you achieving your goals? How? Why?

Investing:

  • Thanks to our first meetings, I started investing.  [RIP: …and it’s gone]
  • The main driver was social pressure, a set deadline and a person checking on it. So I took responsibility and did what was needed. I researched taxation in CZ in a couple of evenings. Then, I opened a DEGIRO account after another couple of research-evenings. I took a week or two before putting some money into an ETF. Now I am experiencing market volatility, and learning how to be ok with it.  [RIP: congrats, you just experienced the worst month in the history of Volatility! Luckily the future “should” be less crazy]

Irrational fear of the market:

  • Outside of the rational fears, I removed the foggy fear of the market and personal investing. I already experienced a market crash, I am ready for another hit anytime! [RIP: don’t rush, next time will be different. Maybe you’ll have a lot more money invested, maybe you’ll be in a different mental state and maybe next crash will last longer. You know nothing. Neither I do, of course]
  • This experience is freeing me from the beginner hesitancy. Of course, I am lacking a lot of knowledge and I am not sure how much time I want to spend learning the market. I also have an estimate on how much time I need to spend to improve my investment knowledge. With my current small capital status, my knowledge is just enough. When my invested capital will grow (>50k), I will have to spend more time on learning and research.  [RIP: you can decide to stay a beginner even with 1M. You can step up your investing game – at your own risk, with 90% odds of underperforming passive investing – independently from your invested amount]

Finding similar people:

  • The quarantine did not improve my social life, that is clear. Nevertheless, I am trying to re-evaluate connections I already have. I don’t have new insights in terms of finding the right people. I guess for now it is not something in my control. I can try to put myself out there (internet presence?) and force myself to the uncomfortable random meetings once again meetups, events, Trustroots (much better than CSurfing, smaller, no-profit, open source 🙂 ). Sadly I have no resolution for this “goal”, let’s see what comes after we all open doors again.  [RIP: you keep telling me that you’d like to start blogging, but you don’t like the quality of your writing. Just do it. Your writing quality is waaay better than mine when I launched my blog. Writing (and content creation in general) is the best networking tool it exists. Btw, I didn’t know about Trustroots, thanks!]

Goals and motivation / understanding personal identity and challenges:

  • Starting discussion with you helped me to put into words the possible outcome of a personal project. The social pressure / motivation have given me enough momentum to put things down into doc files.  [RIP: just do it! Or, better: just do it!]
  • Additionally, the situation of quarantine provided me with all the time I needed to think, and test a few time-usage experiments.  [RIP: I’m a bit envy here, I sometimes dream about a REAL quarantine, without family obligations 🙂 ]
  • This is far from concrete achievement but I would like to share what came out of our sessions and my own personal overthinking.  [RIP: I hope you don’t mind if I share it with the world]
  • As mentioned a couple of times, I do have a wide range of interests, some of which I tried to move from the bucket “hobbies” to the bucket “profession”. I had the possibility of living life from an “artist” perspective. My punchline is that I do not feel this to be a right choice for me. (especially rushed by financial stability pressure).  [RIP: save a bit mo’ money and do it!]
  • Drawing, writing, playing music are beautiful activities. They give us positive and deep emotions. They seem to satisfy, momentarily, our sense of meaning. Nevertheless, I don’t feel the inner drive to make them my full-time profession (anymore). They lose their flow, their beauty of simplicity when forced. Of course, making them into a profession pushes me to improve, research, learn, share and much more. But when the activity loses its beauty, it does not matter how good you are (do you feel similarly about coding?  [RIP: totally! But I think there’s a niche for everything. The coding counterpart is: solving interview questions is pure fun, and no real task in a real job looks like solving interview questions. But you can make a living via YouTube channel on “how to solve interview questions”. Booom! Passion and Money!] ). Riding up the learning curve, to me, is the most pleasant part. Trying, failing, and without pressure discovering that you can improve.  [RIP: …but it’s when you reach The Dip and question yourself the right time to keep pushing. Guess what’s my new favorite blog?]
  • In the past 2 weeks, I have been behind closed doors. I had, and still have, all the time I want in my hands. So I tried. I spent the first week recording a song a day. Writing everyday something personal. I read books and blogs (livingafi) and got inspired. I also faced myself everyday. I asked myself questions about purpose, pleasure and time.  [RIP: …I do the same bro, but take the livingafi example. Read (again, eventually) Done Detoxing. Especially the chapter Looking For Fulfillment in Different Places. If “normal people” follow feelings and short term drive (and they give a reason for the entire advertisement industry to exist), we tend to neglect body and feelings to live too long inside our head. Do Something. Accept that there are unknowns. Accept you can’t control and predict outcome. Embrace Uncertainty]
  • After this short life experiment, I reached a first uninspiring conclusion: I am not here to create something great and look for praise. I am not going to think these pleasant activities will replace my working life. These are set in the realm of pleasure, mental freedom and flow. I do not want to confuse them with my professional life. A transition may happen in the future, but spontaneously, almost taking me by surprise.  [RIP: Noooo! Ok, fine. But give them enough room for serendipitous encounters. Remove the intention but keep the effort]
  • I am satisfied giving my daily 8 hours to a company. I am not bothered much by this at the moment. It is an exchange for future freedom. I will be clear with any employer on my mindset. I am there to do my job, effectively. I am not there to learn on weekends or push a project forward with overtimes. I am not looking to reach expertise to satisfy a niche of companies ready to pay me 20% more. I am there to get my ration of deserved “bread and water”.  [RIP: the problem with this approach is that companies that are ok with employees who don’t push harder are those that don’t pay much. How much “future” do you want your “freedom” to be?]
  • What is left of the awake time is in my hands. This time is not in the hands of great plans and goals. I am not setting myself to reach the greatness of Mucha or Bill Evans. Currently, my purpose is life itself. Enjoying the sun, the company of a friend, singing in the morning, the neighbor’s cat passing by, pasta and tomatoes. A couple of years will pass and I will be able to free my time even more thanks to my financial couch. No rush needed. Once I get there I will realize that time was always in my hands (Doom’s “Done Detoxing”, done in advance). I am trying not to miss it now that I see it a bit more clearly.  [RIP: ok, I should have read this one before commenting on the previous point 🙂 – but I see things differently, can’t detox with a full time job without an expiration date]
  • All the above is foolish and lighthearted, I am aware. Things will change, I will change, the economy will change, but for now I build my couch, slowly. Meanwhile I will make my own mini-life experiments to test my future.  [RIP: please, keep me up to date!]

[RIP: working with Mr. MoL has been rewarding on so many aspects. We touched finances pretty quickly and switched to the meaning of life soon. It’s crazy how freeing up resources from fighting the lower levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs won’t make you perceive this newfound abundance of time, money, and mental resources as “happiness”. We find new problems. We make up new ones if we have none available. it’s once again Hedonistic Adaptation. Bilionaires must have problems as well]

Mr. Hustle

Which challenges are/were you facing? What did you expect from these coaching sessions?

Work and career uncertainty. How to make the right long term choice for me.

Thanks to this coaching opportunity I made some steps toward clarity on the above topics.

I had the opportunity to listen to opinions and first hand experiences of an expert in the field I’m moving my first steps. I had the chance to understand pros and cons of an IT career.

[RIP: I would add that the main challenge I perceived was to find a way to either boost your career or just jump into your little side hustle empire]

Did the coaching experience help you achieving your goals? How? Why?

Surely the coaching sessions helped me define a path for moving forward.

Since I don’t have a clear and measurable goal (“RIP, where can I invest my 44654k?”  [RIP: easy: inverse leveraged Crude OIL on Cruises] ) it was impossible to “reach my goal” with coaching. But I think I got a nice push in the right directions

[RIP: It’s a bit my fault here. I must admit that Mr Hustle has been the toughest one of the pack to help. We should have defined some concrete goals. The goal was not to clear all the fog, but to maybe describe it. Define what was required to clear it off, or live with it. I think it’s always a matter of actions, and exposure. Do things (and you’re great at it), and create conditions for luck and a-ha moments to happen. Cal Newport calls this “serendipitous encounters”. Your situation is somehow similar to Mr. MoL, but he took the leap and went living abroad, and tried many companies. I fear that you’re caging yourself by living in a small town in center of Italy and working a crappy job. You have an amazing entrepreneurial attitude, just give it room to grow. You don’t know yet in which direction, and it’s ok. Learn new tools, programming languages, connect with random people. Make room for luck to come visiting you]

Mrs. Crêpes

Which challenges are/were you facing? What did you expect from these coaching sessions?

My initial reason for asking you to coach me was to improve my knowledge on personal finance. My idea was to get your objective feedback on my asset allocation, and especially to increase allocation on stocks. And at the same time, to help each other on the topics we have experience with (real estate for me, markets for you, among others).  [RIP: haha I think we NEVER touched this topic!]

I am very thankful for your Net worth document that I copy-pasted and which is VERY useful, and obviously your blog posts are very informative (and funny!)  [RIP: you’re welcome. The 2020 one has all the formulas, help yourself!]

And also to talk about my questions around my job and career, you know, midlife crisis etc 🙂  [RIP: …which is what dominated our meetings]

Did the coaching experience help you achieving your goals? How? Why?

Actually my goals evolved over that period of time. My situation turned into a mini-burnout caused by a high(er) workload including a lot of pressure from the management, as well as issues with the [ANOTHER PROBLEM, REDACTED BY RIP]. These 2 topics were just too much for me to handle at the same time, while having a family to take care of. Now that I feel much better (improved health and sleep, hurray), I realize that I was fighting not to collapse…  [RIP: that’s what I mean when I said “Q1 2020 has not been the quieter time of my (and your) life”. Btw, I’m very very happy to see you’ve come to the other end of Q1 in a much better shape! I don’t think I played any role, but my ego is celebrating anyway]

My goal became to learn to deal with it, and take some distance from these personal issues. I appreciated that you challenged me by sharing a different and objective point of view.

Example : when you asked me if it was worth to fight and spend time and money for the [PERSONAL] issues : I questioned myself quite a lot of time and I still do 🙂

[RIP: it seems that “listening and asking sometimes provocative questions” is where I added most value in this coaching experiment. And I like that. Maybe I should launch a podcast…]

Concerning financials, your feedback comforted me with my choices, for example : keep going with real estate which I like, temporarily suspend our investments in case we would need to pay for a lawyer. Actually given the current circumstances I am very happy to have built and kept a comfy emergency fund.  [RIP: yeah! Happy to hear you saying this!]

[RIP: working with Mrs. Crêpes has probably been the most emphatic coaching experience so far. Sometimes it seemed I was playing the “therapist” but that was never my intention. Most of the troubles she has(had?) I can understand and… yeah, the word that describes it better is empathy I think. Please keep me up to date, and thanks for the Crêpes you cooked for my family when you came to our place 🙂 ]

Drs. J

Which challenges are/were you facing? What did you expect from these coaching sessions?

1: Facing career change among other career insecurities.  [RIP: “maybe” a career change. We’re more into the Fear Setting framework than actual planning]

2: Not able to start investing, waiting for the right moment.  [RIP: did we ever touch this? 🙂 ]

Did the coaching experience help you achieving your goals? How? Why?

General comment on this experience:

  • First of all, this was also a trial experience for me and I found it really great, for two reasons: First reason was to meet the person behind the blog and the second to discuss challenges with someone outside of the friends+family circle. It also makes it easier to discuss some topics without judgment. I feel I am kinda alone in the quest for “is this it in life” etc, and also related to becoming financial independent and why would I even want that. These topics are completely alien in my academic surroundings and even my husband sometimes does not understand why, but since I started gathering data and talking about it he is warming up to the idea and the concepts. We both started investing on IB (independently from each other) and both have our third pillar into VIAC.  [RIP: no, I don’t have my third pillar in VIAC! Not yet, at least. Anyway, I share the pleasure of this experience. It was so eye opening for me to see how many people fight battles with Uncertainty, Purpose, Passion, and Money. That Money asshole gets always in the way!]

Challenge 1:

  • 50/50 – mainly because goals were never going to be reached in 3 months 🙂 . Homework assignments and meeting were excellent.  [RIP: thanks ^_^]  They made me realize I like my job but there are plenty of aspects that would have to change to be feasible in the long term (complete independence, stable position, environment). If the change is for the better it is going to be great, if not, I would have to start (probably from scratch) along a different path within 12 months. The “What else” is something I am still figuring out. We did not really figure this out during coaching sessions but this would also have been impossible. But for sure this coaching experience has prepared me better for what is to come.  [RIP: it’s always useful to play the “what else” and even go out into the wild and move some steps in the “what else” world, but I’d bet all my money that you’re on your right path and you won’t have, need, or want to change your career. You’re navigating The Dip right now. And what I’ve done is exactly what a good coach should not do: add too many personal opinions]

Challenge 2:

  • We did not talk much about investing, but this is completely ok. Your blog plus the COVID induced bear market gave me some push to put another 40k CHF in (still 60k CHF to go). We did not talk about potential real estate investments which I was considering because we don’t own property, but I found the philosophical and psychological discussions about life/career much more interesting. If I felt I wanted to talk about something else I felt I could have easily brought up that topic for discussion.  [RIP: the more I see, the more I think investing is 90% psychology. If you’re facing potential short term revolutions in your life, and “if” in the meantime we experienced the craziest time in the history of the stock markets, I would have not focused on investing. But that was not my call (I was here to help you), so I’m sorry, my fault 😛 ]

Let’s move to the “feedback about the coach”

The Awesome Mr RIP

What has your coach (the awesome Mr RIP) done well?

Human aspects: Honesty, Listening, Empathy, Balance

  • Mr P: “For me your top quality is just bold honesty! You don’t go around the bush and just call things by their names”  [RIP: I can be rude sometimes, but I don’t want to let things unsaid 🙂 ]
  • Mr. P: “you are very balanced. You don’t get too overconfident when things go well and you don’t swipe mistakes under the carpet when they happen. Probably any other person, given the emotional rollercoaster you had been trough in the past 2 years, would have already had a meltdown”.  [RIP: thanks! I really appreciate this comment!]
  • Mr. P: “you try to understand where the student is coming form, his background, his past and create empathy”
  • Mr. Hustle: “I appreciated the informal style of the “chats”, which I perceived as authenticity”
  • Mr. Hustle: “You empathize a lot with your coachee (the awesome Me)’s situation”
  • Mr. Hustle: “The most important factor for me has been your focus on psychological aspects of everything, which is a great plus but… (continues on the “what could you improve section”)”
  • Mr. MoL: “You definitely opened up from the start, giving me personal opinions and point of view without unnecessary filters, also pushing the discussion into the uncomfortable corners, pushing to answer out loud the questions I usually ask and answer only in my head”.  [RIP: a good mix of listening, asking hard questions, and giving opinions. Well, maybe I should go on an opinion diet. I’m not sure it helps people to throw my opinions to them. But that I see as part of the “friendship, not hierarchy”]
  • Mr. MoL: “Kindness and understanding together with constructive criticism”.
  • Mrs. Crêpes: “You are a very good listener and challenger of the status quo. You immediately understood what is at stake – as I understand you faced / were facing similar issues, experience is very valuable for coachees”.  [RIP: thanks for the extra emphasis on the listening 🙂 ]
  • Drs. J: “Listening”

[RIP: what I hear strong is Empathy, and Listening. Plus some appreciation of my mental steadiness – which is waaaay far from being on par with my stoic expectation]

Technical aspects: Realism & Rationality, Financial help, Career help

  • Mr. P: “you are also very upfront that you don’t have a magic pill and people should prepare for a long path. Your background is software engineering, where emotions are put on hold and is just rational after rational decisions, this has forged a very strong mindset to approach the investment world. I love discussing topics with you because you are always very factual and don’t become emotional during the conversation”
  • Mr. Reset: “Mr RIP helped me to identify my blind spots, in some areas (e.g. retirement accounts) my understanding was poor if not completely wrong. He refined the way to calculate the cost/benefit analysis for some investment options. When we discussed some standard portfolios he was able to explain why last decades scenarios are less likely based on current economy constrains”
  • Mr. Hustle: “Clear and frank analysis, right questions asked, right cords touched”
  • Mr. MoL: “Setting a goal for the next session. This is definitely a must and was done enough for me to take action”.
  • Mr. MoL: “Asking for feedback. This is great not only for you, but for us too. It is a bit like digesting our discussions. Maybe this could be done once a month (if it is useful for the “tutored” person)”.  [RIP: you don’t have to have someone who asks for your feedback to digest what happened in your head. Do journal. Do philosophical meditations. Do morning pages. You can always work on the meta level of your experience. It’s the way I’m building my steadiness despite a tendency (genetic, education, environment I grew up) to impulsivity and shallowness. Cal Newport recently started a series on The Deep Life. Do less, do it better, know why you’re doing it]
  • Drs. J: “Ideas for the homework assignments, forcing me to think of “worst case scenarios”, the fact that you are more pessimistic is good for being a coach. You don’t want someone that deep down thinks that everything is going to be alright. Myself being an optimist, I would definitely need a pessimist as a coach. Maybe it is the opposite if roles would be reversed, I don’t know”.  [RIP: Haha I didn’t think about this! Well, I don’t know if I consider myself “pessimist” (for example I’m an optimist when comes to Coronavirus), but I know I’m too much rational and future oriented. Which mix badly into wanting to control “long term happiness” as much as possible. Which turns out to be implemented by “worst case scenarios” planning all the time. It’s a bit taxing on mental health, but ain’t no space for “hope and faith” here]

[RIP: what I hear in this section is Groundedness and Analyticity. I put them both in the area of Critical Thinking. Sadly we don’t have enough data to assess Financial and concrete Career (STEM) related skills. But if you ask me, I’d rate Financials at 9 and Career at 7.]

What could your coach (the awesome Mr RIP) have done better?

  • Mr. P: “I don’t know…for me it has really worked well! I guess if there is a version 2.0 of this you will be much more prepared resulting in a more structured approach to the coaching from the starting to to the ending of the sessions”
  • Mr. MoL: “I think more structure and “recording” what is discussed would be helpful. Having a shared document where to set up questions, answers, goals for the next meeting, what went well and what did not. I did this myself on a personal messy doc, but a more structured shared file would be helpful.”  [RIP: good point, nice suggestion (the shared doc)!]
  • Mr. MoL: “Additionally, on the technical side of investing, it would be also nice to gather the information and discuss the knowledge gaps step by step. For instance, after some research, a lot of finance jargon was unclear to me. I should have probably set such questions on a common file to go through it together”.  [RIP: again, very good point! I gave too many things for granted]
  • Mr. MoL: “Setting some time for each part could also be good: 15 min investments, 45 life talk maybe? But maybe I am over-organizing here”.  [RIP: structure, structure. I hear you loud and clear]
  • Mr. MoL: “On a minor note, I think the sessions could be set in a time where both participants are fresh. That way, the discussion can go further if felt right for both. I personally feel that evening is good for me, but I was a bit scared to burn the last sparkle of energy left in the awesome Mr RIP brain. He managed quite well nevertheless 🙂 “.  [RIP: …and I’m sorry for that. it happened – by chance – that at least 3 out of 4 times I had a meting scheduled with you I was ultra tired in the evening. I’ve been much fresher, for example, during all Mr. P or Mr. Reset meetings. I’m sorry for that!]
  • Mr. Hustle: “… (follow from what I did well section) I’m not sure this kind of coaching is a fully sellable product. Someone who buys a service like this expects a guru who tells them “do this, do that and become rich with this magic formula”. You’re obviously not representing this stereotype”.  [RIP: I like that you gave me feedback about the “product”. How many times did I tell you that I see a craving entrepreneur inside your employed body? I’m not strictly focusing on selling anything though. I’d accept money, of course, but creating a sellable product is not my top priority now. I want to get better at doing what I do for now]
  • Mr. Hustle: “again, to make this a sellable product maybe you need more structure. Maybe an online course (or a series of) plus a videocall support at the end of them? I don’t know 🙂 “.  [RIP: If I decide to put more effort into my blog (which is the hard decision I’m facing since I quit Hooli) I’ll for sure put together some online courses. Thanks for the suggestion 🙂 I wonder if it makes sense for me to keep offering 1:1 help like this. It has many upsides on the human side, but it doesn’t scale (timewise before moneywise) and I don’t know if there’s enough value]
  • Mrs. Crêpes: “Maybe (briefly) documenting each of our exchanges and next steps, and especially set expectations at the beginning – something like a contract to give structure (hello control-freak). By the way, I could have done this myself 😉 “.  [RIP: structure. Wow, I didn’t realize how important this was for all of you. I’m glad I asked your feedback 🙂 ]
  • Drs. J: “I think in my case it was good to think and chat about all the philosophical aspects about work, designing your life, what makes me worried, anxious stressed etc. In the end we did not talk about investing, but see my comment above, not an issue. Maybe others would have preferred to have a structure or outline from the very beginning –> but I also think this would apply more to people that wanted to get their finances in order”.  [RIP: again, structure. Plus maybe I focus on where I add more value (finances) and stop playing the therapist!]

[RIP: Thank you a lot for all your constructive feedback! I hear one thing loud and clear: Structure. Feedback received. On my defense, maybe Circumstances didn’t help, but it’s just an excuse. P.S. Mr. Reset didn’t fill this section of the form, I interpret it as “you can’t improve, you’re already perfect” 😀 ]

Any other feedback for your coach (the awesome Mr RIP)?

Mr P:

I am now a believer that “investing” is much more than putting money in the market.

Can emotional people, or people going trough emotional rollercoasters, be successful investors? Maybe but is much harder  (That’s why I also praise so much your achievement! Getting your results while onboard of an emotional rollercoaster. You should feel like Chuck Norris now 😉

Therefore, my take is that along investing, people should also have healthy habits in order to create the most effective environment to invest. things such as:

  • Put their finances in order and save regularly
  • Reduce as much as possible eventual points of emotional stress specially the ones derived from health, family, work, love relationships (I believe emotional stress ends up in bad investing decisions leading to bad results)
  • Always be humble! Hope for the best but be prepared for the worst (Now your plan for “not losing” makes perfect sense 😉 )

[RIP: I think you made good points, and I try to interpret them as a feedback for me: focus even more on psychological aspects of investing when facing people who had some emotional roller coaster. P.S. you can’t say R.I.P. and Chuck Norris in the same sentence, it generates a black hole that swallows the entire universe 😀 ]

Mr. MoL:

  • Keep being direct and honest, keep things transparent, don’t be afraid to tell your own mind on any subject and correct yourself later on. We are all on a learning curve, and we can always share what we got till now and pass it over to the people behind us.
  • Don’t be afraid to make your “passion” into a lucrative endeavor as long as it is done honestly and ethically. There is nothing unethical in valuing your time.  [RIP: thanks, really appreciated this one]

Mr. Hustle:

  • Keep on keeping on! Push on the pedal, above all with the blog that’s always a pleasure to read! [RIP: will do!]

Mrs. Crêpes:

  • You are awesome and I knew it (and I am always right :D).  [RIP: I won’t contradict you 😀 ]
  • Happy to discuss and keep each other informed about our lives 😉  [RIP: likewise!]

Drs. J:

  • I think you would be a great coach, but not sure if it would give you great satisfaction to talk about other peoples problems so much.  [RIP: Thank you so much for this piece of feedback. It made me think a lot about my future plans. You might be right. Even though I keep telling me that this is the kind of life I want, where I get in deep contact with people – can you imagine how unimaginable this whole thing was just 4 years ago before I started blogging? – I need to think twice or more about “do I really want this?”. Thanks. This is one of the best feedback I received]
  • A different comment – There was a point in my career in early [FEW YEARS AGO] that I had too many deadlines (for grants and patents), invited talks (lot of travel). After this was over I fell in a hole and became very unproductive. With the arrival of a motivated proactive student I got my motivation for research back. He was very smart, probably better than I am, but because he was still young I could provide valuable help and supervise him well. I wanted to share this because you mentioned you wanted to guide people for coding interviews – when I read that on your blog I thought that was a great idea because it might reawaken your passion for coding. I don’t know of course, but in my case discussing science with this student revived my passion for it, I learned from him as well.  [RIP: What did I say just the paragraph above? “this is one of the best feedback I received”. Well, it’s been kicked out from the podium by this other one! Thank you so much!]
  • Thanks a lot for choosing me for this experiment. It was a pleasure. I will keep you posted on what happens to me 🙂  [RIP: PLEASE DO! Overall, I got so much back from our chats. Please, do not disappear Doctor! Thanks to you I discovered all the dark sides of P2P Lending before I wrote a post about it. We shared interesting and deep articles/blogs. Thank you so much, it was almost a reverse coaching experience for me!]

[RIP: P.S. Mr. Reset didn’t fill this section either]

Conclusions and Next Steps

It’s been a fun experience for me. A bit taxing though: I had few weeks where every evening was booked for coaching meetings, or other blog related chats with people who asked my one-off help.

I learned a lot, and I think I made few friendships along the way – time will tell 🙂

Which questions should I find an answer to? I classified them in three families, each one enabled by the previous one.

Am I good at this?

  • Can I deliver value to people thru this endeavor? Where?
  • Should I take some formal education to improve my quality? Which one?

Should I keep offering coaching?

  • Do I enjoy it?
  • Is it the best use of my time?
  • Am I more impactful in other ways (like blogging, writing a book, writing a European Guide to FIRE, recording online courses, starting a podcast or a YouTube channel)?

How should my coaching offering evolve?

  • Should I narrow down the offering (pure financial, midlifecrisis-y, career oriented)?
  • Should I focus only on a subset of the above fields?
  • In which format?
  • How should I change the structure of a coaching session?
  • For free? Or how much should I charge for it? How would people react?
  • Should it have a serious support structure (contracts, disclaimers, customer care, marketing)?

I have some of the answers, but not all of them. I think I can add value, more than I thought before jumping on this boat, but I’m not sure it’s the best use of my time. I enjoy it, but mostly the human aspects of it. If it becomes more “professional” maybe I won’t enjoy it – or feel guilty asking for money.

For now, I’m going to stop the program.

I know I received a lot of requests for a second edition, someone even offered to pay for it (that’s great, it gives me a confidence boost), but there won’t be a second edition this spring. Maybe later, maybe in fall. But it won’t be free.

In the meantime, if you really – really – need my support, we can find a solution. But again, it won’t be free.

I’m going to send a letter to my future self (please, read it by end of Summer 2020) to re-evaluate the whole thing and decide what to do with it.

For now, thanks a lot to my six participants of the first edition, of course you have lifetime (lightweight) support for free 🙂

Have a nice day!

 

…but before you go away, here we have extra bonus content from our prolific Mr. MoL:

Bonus Mr. MoL “Additional self asked question”: What are your next steps?

Work:

  • I am handling my job transition. I will have to spend some brain space to deal with the new team, organization, learning the tools needed. It will take over my whole May. I do not expect any major changes on the job itself. I will try my best to enjoy it as it is, finding the good in whatever boring task at hand. Cut off on interviews and job search, as long as the new job keeps going fine.

Investing:

  • Currently 10% of my capital is invested in IWDA. I will add 10-20% more to the same position (when and if my currency CZK gets back on track  [RIP: aaaah Market Timing alert!]). Covering more of the market with EM and small cap is an option, but I did not see an obvious choice there. I must research more.
  • I should probably learn about other assets, like bonds, but the advice I got was to stay away from those at the moment. So for now just ETFs I guess.  [RIP: stay tuned, I’m going to write about bonds soon-ish]
  • I should probably open a new EUR account to have an easy way to handle my EUR savings (these are still stuck in Italy atm).
  • In a year’s time, I would hopefully start to see my capital near to the point where a more expensive broker may be better (like IB or similar  [RIP: is IB expensive? O_o]). Still this is far from me today, and I won’t take much action right now.

On the use of my time, I keep enjoying the calm of the lockdown. I have already few things on my list:

  • Write often. Write, read and research about a set of topics already in place. No need to publish this anywhere at the moment.  [RIP: do write! it’s clear that you have a passion for it]
  • Create a website of mine. Probably not a blog. Something in between a digital storage for my projects and a portfolio to show off how cool I am.  [RIP: great idea 😉 ]
  • Record songs I used to play in the past years (covers), a bunch already recorded. Sing daily.
  • Start recording something of mine, even random improv would work fine for a start.
  • Dust off my old tablet, produce at least 1 personal painting a month, no expectations.  [RIP: you’re adding too many things on your plate. Keep commitments low enough to not dread them, and to not cage yourself in guilt – yes, talking to myself here]
  • Be back socially after the lockdown. Look for interesting people in town. Maybe organize a meetup myself? On what? I am not sure yet.  [RIP: be the change you want to see in CZ 😀 ]
  • Waking up early, eating healthy, reading everyday, keeping good social connections, helping others, solving climate change, becoming a superhero. Maybe just slowing down a bit for now 🙂  [RIP: you forgot bringing humans to Mars!]

That’s all folks!

11 comments

  1. Well, I was not expecting to clutter your internet-space so badly. I guess it is good to show the full picture to the (brave) readers. Thanks for sharing and all the fish! 🙂

    1. You’re welcome Mr MoL 🙂
      I hope taking a look at your writing from the outside gives you better perspective that there’s quality.

  2. I must admit I was curious and knocked on your Whereby 🙂 . I couldn’t resist such an invitation. I’m so happy the consulting work went well and if you do it again I’m 100% with you that it shouldn’t be free. I’m also sure your readers would love to throw some ‘shekels’ your way. I also love the letter to your future self idea. I received one from my 2015 self in October that I totally forgot about. I should do that again – thanks for jogging my memory. I hope you’re well.

    1. LOL. I’m in Whereby right now, don’t know for how long 🙂
      I like the letter to future self as well, but I never find a good way to deliver them. They are either always popping around (failing at be forgotten until deliver date) or forgotten forever.

      1. Oh no! I’m getting on a scheduled call with a friend in 7 minutes. Sadness. As for the future letter, I used Futureme.org, which allowed me to totally forget it about and then be surprised years later lol.

  3. Wow, judging from the feedback, it looks like the coaching experience was really amazing.
    Of course, it is a bit of a bummer for the rest of us that there won’t be a repeat soon, but I can see how this must be very taxing for Mr. RIP, considering all the effort, commitment and empathy that he is investing in each and every one of the mentees.

    Truly, you are not kidding when you describe the project goal as “a desire to establish friendship before anything else.”

    I must say though, if you start charging for the coaching service, I think this might change the relationship between coach and mentees into something much more professional and sterilized. It often happens that when people pay for something (consciously or not) they can get a bit of an entitled attitude, which is not the greatest springboard for establishing friendship.

    Don’t get me wrong here – you totally deserve to be payed for providing this amazing guidance/counselling/coaching service. It’s just my thought on how this might change the structure of the relationship.

    Maybe, you might consider alternative forms of payments rather than cold transfer of cash. Before we end up in dangerous double entendre territory (but hey, you started that with the “friendship with benefits” reference!), I’ll go out a limb and say I’d be happy to pay my due in board game vouchers. Financial advice in exchange for an imposing brand new Twilight Imperium box and a Terraforming Mars on the side? Sounds reasonable (to me!) 😛

    1. Yeah, in the end it was a very good experience for all of us 🙂
      I have a blocker when it comes to “corrupt my passion with money”, that’s why I was more of the idea of “reach real FI, then give yourself away for free no question asked”.
      I’m in this dark territory where I don’t know what to do. Maybe I need some kind of coaching myself 🙂
      Anyway, the idea of Boardgames credit is not bad, not at all. But how to convince Mrs RIP that it was not my idea? 😀

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