Raised in a Marine Corps family, my childhood trained for adaptability and resilience. My father taught me persistence; the duty was to hold course until given another order. There wasn't room for "don't feel like it" or "I give up." Mid-career I realized this attribute creates a point of vulnerability — in life there isn't a command providing orders. I must determine the next move and assess when things work or not. Significantly, I wasn't taught when to fold 'em.
I've loved this career helping families and business owners with finances. I've had amazing mentors who've modeled tenacity, values and decision-making that lead to wealth generation. The human element behind financial management is powerful and fascinating.
Through my work with The Jump Fund, I see the fold 'em concept played out in real time within the start-up community. The high growth start-up is like a sprint on a razor wire with obstacles. Start-ups don't talk about fail, because it's about the pivot — releasing one thing to begin something else. It's a time-compressed struggle toward continuous improvement and optimization. Your survival depends on it.
Outside the start-up world, we avoid endings because they involve registering disappointment, sharing negative news, creating conflict, saying good-bye and feeling natural grief. Not appealing. That energy, time and/or money that's going out the door with limited-return prospects could be deployed elsewhere and the sooner you move proactively, the better.
Fold 'em observations):
-Fold 'em if maintaining your output is eating into your capacity. Making money isn't enough; the question becomes at what cost? If you're killing your future capacity to drive sustainable revenue, you'll hit a wall or burn out. In Marine training, there's only so long you can burn muscle.
-Fold 'em (or scale back) when you have too many eggs in one basket. What's driving your success perhaps to an unhealthy level and feels unbalanced and carries risk? It's time to address the concentration and plan your course of action.
-Fold 'em to protect your downside. I play to win and appreciate a good offense, so this is a tough one. Investing for balance between opportunity and volatility management means better results in changing climates over the long haul — and better sleep at night.
-Fold 'em when there's too much. Like a portfolio that's scattershot with too many holdings and lacking strategy (or efficiency), we often accumulate assets or activities without letting anything go. Tame the chaos and assess what you need to fold to focus on higher-value activities and investments.
-Fold 'em when the season changes. Everything cycles including your investments, your career and your business. Seasons shift and it's important to determine if working harder will achieve better results or if changing divisions or (and this is Marine Corps heresy) joining the Air Force gives you a stronger upside.
Knowing when to fold 'em feels like a life-time, always evolving dance. If something doesn't serve you — whether it's an asset, business venture or relationship — contemplate whether you are seeing it in true light. In investments, we work to avoid "catching a falling knife."A Marine would hold onto that knife until the bitter and bloody end. Fortunately, we don't have to.
Stefanie Crowe is a reformed banker and lifelong wealth adviser. She serves as director of wealth, knowledge & happiness for Stone Bridge Asset Management. She's co-founder and general partner of The JumpFund. Contact her at scrowe@ stonebridge-am.com.