For anyone who grew up in the 1970s, just hearing the name ‘Evel Knievel’ instantly conjures up a time when the pinnacle of cool was a man with a powerful motorbike and a white jump suit who redefined the term ‘daredevil’. This former delinquent from a small town in the Rocky Mountains catapulted himself – quite literally – into the public consciousness with an astonishing series of death-defying stunts, winning him worldwide fame and adoration in the process.
Born Robert Craig Knievel in 1938, he grew up in Butte, Montana, where, at the age of 18 he found himself in jail for reckless driving in a police chase. He was Christened 'Evel Knievel' by the jailer, who’d already named a fellow prisoner William ‘Awful’ Knofel. (He wasn't all bad he chose the misspelling of 'Evel' not just to match his surname, but because he was reluctant to be considered actually 'evil'). This gave him his first taste of fame – or infamy – and he liked it.
Knievel had a string of jobs as a young man and explored many avenues to channel his energy while supporting the needs of his young family – from participating in local professional rodeos and ski-jumping events to playing semi-pro hockey, and from pole-vaulting to selling insurance. It’s at this point that he realised there may be a future for him in motorcycling, having some early success on the racing circuit and running a dealership of his own.
Many of these early careers capitalised on his athletic prowess and his love of a challenge and, while he also did his fair share of humdrum jobs, he remained a thrill-seeker, a showman, a self-determined dynamo of a man who was never really cut out for the nine-to-five. In a lay-off from racing after one of what was to become a long line of injuries he read a book called ‘Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude’. This seems to have been the catalyst for everything that followed.
In the course of his career he attempted more than 75 ramp-to-ramp motorcycle jumps including leaps over snakepits, shark pools, ever-increasing lines of cars and buses, the Snake River Canyon and the Caesars Palace fountains to name a few. Many of them he pulled off in spectacular style, and many he didn’t, racking up an array of eye-watering injuries to show for his efforts. But with his hunger for new challenges, coupled with his showman’s instinct and a seemingly fearless approach to his personal physical wellbeing, he made himself into one of the biggest stars of the 70s. His (ultimately unsuccessful) attempt to jump 13 buses in Wembley Arena in 1975 still makes for incredible viewing over 40 years later.
While for us mere mortals the prospect of saddling up to jump over 13 buses is as distant a dream as a whole month without a tube or train strike, there are plenty of things we can learn from the life of this extraordinary daredevil and which are just as relevant to financial planning.
Life is Not a Rehearsal
If ever there was someone who seized the moment and made the most of every second of his life it was Knievel. He powered through a series of early careers, shedding skins until he hit on something he loved. His single-minded commitment to answering his calling drove him to greater and greater achievements, but if the worst had happened and he had paid the ultimate price for one of his acts of mind-boggling daring, you get the impression he wouldn’t have felt like he'd wasted his life. He understood that life was for living and enjoying, every day.
This is something we feel passionate about too. As financial lifestyle planners we believe in helping our clients to get the best out of life and that good financial planning is about putting yourself in the position to grasp every opportunity for fulfilment. We believe in investing for a purpose and using your money to help you achieve your dreams, whatever they may be.
A great starting point to lifestyle financial planning is our ‘Where Are You Today?’ questionnaire, which helps you to assess what you are earning and spending, where you are investing and, most importantly, how your current finances will affect your future lifestyle plans. Of course, it includes a page for making your bucket list. Whether its climbing Kilimanjaro, bird watching in Cumbria or jumping London buses for that matter, knowing what you want to get out of life is the first step to living it.
Understand the Difference Between the Risks You Need to Take and Those You’re Taking
Evel Knievel understood that to achieve the fame and fortune he craved with what he had at his disposal he needed to take greater risks that would propel his act to a level that was unmatched by anyone in his field. This was the level of risk he chose to take.
As financial planners, risk is something we engage with every day. Weighing up the level of risk our clients are comfortable with versus the risk they need to take to achieve their investment aims is a part of our job.
It can be tempting in financial climates like ours to sit tight and not take any risk at all but, with sound financial advice, taking on a little risk can help our clients achieve their investment objectives and obtain the returns they're seeking. That said, attempting to jump thirteen London busses for fun is a risk that most people simply don’t need to take! Finding the correct balance is the important outcome.
Planning and Preparation are Paramount
When Knievel started out, with a limited budget and propelled only by his own inexhaustible will to succeed, he did everything himself. He masterminded his own promotion, he rented the venue, he wrote the press releases, he set up the show and the stunts and even acted as his own master of ceremonies. However, he soon realised that to get the best results he needed a team of experts around him, allowing him to focus solely on his jumps.
Similarly, our team of qualified financial lifestyle planners are committed to helping our clients get the best results from their investments. We provide the planning, expertise and guidance, which in turn give our clients the freedom to concentrate on their day-to-day lives.
Suffering just one of the many serious physical injuries Evel Knievel sustained in his career would stop the average person in their tracks, or at least make them question their commitment. But Knievel was spurred on during times of adversity by his upbeat philosophy. He attributes this to the book he read as a young man on mental attitude, which instilled in him a positive outlook fundamental to his success.
Despite the prevailing gloomy outlook in the media, in another of my recent posts I’ve stressed there are plenty of things to be positive about. This is a big part of First Wealth’s approach to investing and to life. With good planning and a positive attitude, and by embracing the challenges that come our way, we look forward to helping our clients achieve their investment goals for 2017 and beyond.