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The stories we are told

In December 2025, I’m considering taking part in the “world’s toughest endurance race”. More on that in future blogs. But before anything could happen, I had to address a pretty major problem.

Rowing is going to form a big part of the training. And I would need to lift weights too. I’ve been having problems with my shoulder thanks to an old rugby injury. I had surgery to fix it a few years ago, but it still wasn’t quite right, meaning training for the big event has been much harder than it needs to be. And most likely, impossible.

I revisited the surgeon and he showed me why my shoulder still wasn’t working properly on a screen. And why I felt pain when I exercised. The problem could be fixed with further surgery, maybe, but his concern was that it may make the injury worse. He referred me back to the original physiotherapist, who said my shoulder crepitus (bone rubbing on cartilage) was “the worst he’d ever seen.”

All the information I received from others, told me the shoulder couldn’t be fixed, and that I would feel pain when I trained. Furthermore, the pain confirmed the same. The dream was over. Thankfully, a chance encounter with a personal trainer in the gym changed everything. I hadn’t even hired him. We just got chatting in the weights room.

I told him about my injury and how I’d come to terms with the fact I’d always have to work around it. After watching me do some of the exercises I struggled with the most, he suggested narrowing my grip on the bar. I did as he said and the pain was gone. I couldn’t believe it. Completely pain-free. He simply changed how I was using the shoulder.

After years of trying and failing to fix the problem myself, and after long ago consulting the surgeon who said that he’d done everything he could, I was beginning to give up hope. In defence of the professionals I was talking to, their focus was on the domain they understood. The surgeon focused on fixing the damage and was concerned about causing further problems by operating again. The physiotherapist focused on creating a range of movements that wasn’t required but also, perhaps limited their expectations of a recovery based on what the surgeon had written in my notes.

As it happened, all I needed was an outsider’s opinion. Coincidentally, that’s often what my clients need too.

Our beliefs can leave us stuck in a rut

The personal trainer told me that when we go to the gym, almost everything we think we know is wrong. I could say the same about finance. People think they need market insight, skill, and a crystal ball to be a successful investor. When in reality, you need patience and a straightforward philosophy.

The way we think about money is heavily influenced by our upbringing, as well as our current surroundings and social circles. Our parents’ attitude to money will usually influence our own.

If your parents were debt averse, you’re likely to be debt averse. If they spend recklessly, you might do the same. If they had a scarcity mindset, you might also find yourself counting every penny and worrying you’ll run out of money in retirement. Much of what we believe has been handed to us by others.

These beliefs can cloud your judgment and prevent you from making positive changes to your financial situation. In the same way, my beliefs about my shoulder and assumption that I had little control over the matter prevented me from finding a solution.

Sometimes all it takes is an outsider’s opinion

Sometimes all it takes is for someone new to come along and say: “Have you tried this?”

When it came to my injury, the solution was as simple as moving my hands closer together on the bar. Instead, I had focussed on a big solution, like surgery, rather than a marginal change.

For my clients, the solution is often equally straightforward. They say: “I don’t know why I didn’t think of that before!” But there’s no point in beating themselves up. I’d never expect them to come up with the solution themselves. It’s a brand new conversation for them, but one I’ve had dozens of times before.

“You have enough. It’s time to spend.”

“Do you want to stay in the same Spanish villa every summer or would you rather explore the world and stay in a mixture of 5 star hotels and backpacker hostels?”

“What if you were to support your children now, rather than waiting until you’re no longer here?”

I say these things often. The personal trainer probably has a similar bank of go-to questions and statements. Trainers work with dozens of clients and find workarounds for countless injuries. They study human anatomy and know exactly how our muscles work.

I don’t know why I didn’t think of seeing one sooner.

You can be doing everything right… only for one thing to hold you back

From my perspective, I was doing everything right in the gym. I increased my protein intake, focused on progressive overload, and made sure to get plenty of sleep. But there was still one thing holding me back - my injury.

How does this translate to money? Well, you could be living within your means, saving for the future, and building a diversified portfolio of funds, but if you’re uninsured or you don’t have a will in place, you may as well have built your house on sand.

Next time you have a problem with your finances, you could diagnose it yourself, struggle along and hope it goes away on its own. You could turn to YouTube, podcasts and friends for the answer, repeating the same things over and over again even though they’re not working.

In the end, you could give up and decide that nothing can be done.

Alternatively, you could get an expert’s opinion and, most significantly, a different perspective looking at the same problem. Sometimes all it takes is an outsider who’s seen it all before but has no emotional ties or baggage to your particular situation, to cut through the noise with a fresh pair of eyes.

And that may help you to rewrite the stories you've been told.

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