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When Long-Term Thinking is a Terrible Idea

During my evening walk yesterday, I was with a 75-year old gentleman who seemed fitter than I am, walked faster than me, had a wider smile than I can ever manage, and talked much more than I do in a few days.

During the ninety minutes we walked together, we talked about our lives, careers, and investing.

“What do you do for a living, young man?” he asked me.

“I am a blogger and an investor,” I replied.

“What kind of an investor are you?” he asked back.

“Well, a long term investor in the stock market,” I said.

“Long term? Great! Even I have been a long term investor all my life,” he told me. “Long term investing makes a lot of sense.”

“Yeah it does,” I said. “Having a long-term thinking is always good.”

“Well, not always, son!” he replied.

“Why do you say so?” I asked.

“Long-term thinking is definitely a great way to live as an investor, but it’s a terrible way to live a life.”

Now this is something I wasn’t expecting. “But why do you say so?” I asked him.

“If you only think about the long term, about the future, how will you live in the present?”

I personally believe that there’s a great charm in living in the moment, but the way this gentlemen expressed it was something that really led me to wonder.

“It’s a natural inclination,” he continued, “Of course you think about the future, and I’m not suggesting that that’s bad. But boy, there’s a lot to be gained from just being able to be in the moment and able to appreciate what’s going on around you right now, this very second.”

“Yes uncle, that’s true!” I said.

“I’ve more recently gotten better at this and appreciated it,” he continued, “It brings peace. It helps you find your place. It’s calming in a world that is not very peaceful.

“That’s great!” I said.

“But I wish I could have learned this in my thirties instead of my sixties – it would have given me decades more to enjoy life in this world.”

“It’s better late than never!” I told him.”

“Yeah, it’s better late than never,” he replied with a beautiful smile on his face.

The ‘Future’ Myth
Despite being a long term investor and believing that we must plan for our financial future, I’ve come to realize over these years that I’ve missed a great deal in the past only worrying about my future.

So I worried…

  • What if I lose this job and don’t get any other?
  • What if this stock I’ve bought loses me money?
  • What if I lose all my savings in a stock market crisis?
  • What if I’m not able to save enough for my child’s education?
  • What if I fall short of money after I retire from work?

I worried, even when I realized that was talking a huge toll on my health.

But these last three years of my life have taught me a big, big lesson in why I must not worry.

I have realized that life is in living NOW. It’s all about the choices we make now, the habits we form now, the actions we take now, and the enlightenment we receive now.

Regretting about the past is like wasting time and energy on the impossible. And worrying about the future is like having no belief in your capabilities.

The best possible way to prepare for tomorrow is to concentrate with all your intelligence, all your enthusiasm, on doing today’s work superbly today. That is the only possible way you can prepare for the future.

This is also true when it comes to investing – concentrate with all your intelligence, all your enthusiasm, on picking the best investments today and you will be assured of a great investment future.

But then, we human beings are curious creatures. Unlike all other species, we agonise and self-destruct over things we can’t change (“I wish I had sold stocks in 2008” or “I wish I had bought stocks in 2009”, for example) while wasting our opportunities, resources and potential to do better and create better in this moment.

Have you noticed how competent we’ve become at avoiding and deflecting?

Avoiding behaviours we should change in the now. Avoiding learning we should do in the now. Avoiding issues we should address in the now. Avoiding decisions we should make in the now.

Yes, they’re all things we say we’re going to do one day; some time in the future.

But that’s a future we will never inhabit.

You and I will never have this day again.

Think about it.

About the Author: Vishal is the Chief Tribesman at Safal Niveshak, where he works with small investors to help them become smart, independent, and successful in their investing and personal finance decisions.


Image Source: ProjectM


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1 Comment

  1. 🙂

    I would put in more succinctly quoting Keynes “In the Long Run, we are all … Dead”

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