I’ve been following the NBA pretty closely for the last 5 years. I fell into a pretty intense fandom after the NHL lockout forced me to go somewhere else for my sports watching needs – and I never looked back.
For those of you that aren’t NBA fans, there are tons of reasons why the league is really compelling, but one of my favourites is the power struggle between teams in big cities and in small centres.
You’ve got LA, New York and Chicago on one hands… tons of money and a history of attracting the best stars to their teams.
And then you’ve got small markets like Minnesota and San Antonio who have to figure out a way to be competitive.
It’s how I feel sometimes in the financial world.
The Easiest Way to Never Worry About Money is Having All the Money in the World
It’s the financial ‘hack’ that tons of ‘financial educators’ keep pushing us towards.
If you have ALL the money, then you’ll finally be free from financial stress.
Except for lots of us that’s not somewhere we’re going to be anytime soon. And since I have no patience for the argument that I’m just ‘not thinking rich’…. I’d rather talk about how we can figure out a way to be financially healthy without having to do the millions of dollars thing.
And today I turn to an NBA example: the San Antonio Spurs
The Insane Success of the Small Market Spurs
For the last 20 years the Spurs have been a major player in the NBA. Even though they’re a small market that can’t spend or attract talent in the same way as the big cities.
Their success is probably really hard to quantify, but I’ve decided to summarize it in four overly simplistic points:
- Investing in development
- Established system
- Tim Duncan
And there’s a ton of financial lessons that we can take from digging into how they do business
The Boring Spurs and Their Boring Stability
Every fan of the NBA knows the spurs are boring. Their uniforms are grey and black, and there’s seldom much drama coming out of their front office. They’ve had the same coach and general manager for 20 years… which is really rare in the NBA.
Stability doesn’t sound exciting… it lacks drama… but when it comes to your health (physical or financial) ‘drama’ really isn’t a good thing.
I’m convinced that health is based on stability.
I work with lots of people with crazy cashflow: variable income, fluctuating expenses, and multiple income streams. Nothing about their money feels stable, and it’s really hard to do anything productive with your money when you feel like you have no control on a base level.
So the first step is always … how do we create a base level of cashflow stability?
That stability can look wildly different for different people, but it always feels the same… it feels safer, it feels like you don’t have to worry as much about getting through ‘this week’ and you can focus on a slightly bigger picture.
Want some tips on how to create stability when your income is really variable?
Investing in Development
The Spurs have this super power, they can take a late 1st round pick and it seems like they always become great.
I’m sure that’s not always true, but they have a unique ability to help a player fully realize their potential.
They don’t need to worry about getting the best talent, because they can make the most of whatever talent that they have.
From a finance perspective – it’s not always about getting more money – it’s about maximizing the potential of the dollars that you already have. That means making sure that your budget is lined up to your values, that you’re not frittering away money on fees that you don’t know about, and that the money you’re saving is invested in the right places.
An Established System
The ‘spurs’ system is legendary. The basketball world is always discussing about whether their players are great, or is it ‘just the system’.
The truth is it doesn’t matter… success is success… but there are a few things we can learn about the benefits of having a system.
A system in basketball is an overarching method of playing, a style that everyone buys into and focuses on executing.
In finance it’s the same concept. An overarching plan – whether that’s a financial plan from a professional or just something you scribbled on a napkin. It’s an idea of what you’re trying to do, and how you’re trying to do it.
A plan helps you know what the *&#$ you’re supposed to be doing from day to day. It helps you define what ‘health’ is to you, and how you’re going to use the various tools out there to get there.
A plan doesn’t have to be fancy BUT it does have to be flexible. We can learn from the Spurs here too… their system has changed wildly over the last 20 years, but one thing that hasn’t changed is that the whole team always buys in. No matter what the plan is, the focus is on clear execution … which has translated into a ton of success.
The Spurs have been a powerhouse for the last 20 years, and it’s not all just the system
and the stability. They drafted one of the greatest players in NBA history, and he allowed all those good habits to translate into dominance.
So… that’s hitting the lottery right? What’s the financial equivalent? Hitting the lottery?
First the good news: I believe that if you’re doing all the other stuff… you’ll be okay.
You don’t need to be the best at finance… you’re not trying to win a championship (at least I’m not). Being a good healthy team that competes is pretty damn good.
But here’s why I think the Spurs example of Tim Duncan is one to learn from… because they didn’t screw it up. They hit the lottery and because they had the stability, the system, the development… they could maximize his talent.
If someone handed someone a million dollars who had no idea how to manage their money … it would help. But if they had the other elements up and running already they could do so much more with it.
More money, or in the case of basketball… more talent, isn’t the one thing that will solve all your problems. It’s the other elements that take that money/talent and allow it to be fully realized. Allow you to take advantage of those ‘lottery winning’ moments – whether it’s a once in a lifetime player or just a really big payday.
So How Do You Succeed Without the Benefit of Millions?
Stability. Maximize every dollar. Make a plan.
Those are three things that don’t depend interest rates or whether your boss gives you a raise.
They’re three things that are going to give you the best chance to succeed… whether you end up with millions of dollars… or not.