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Life’s passing by too fast, or so it seems. I complete 44 years in my present state of existence today. That’s more than three-fifths of the average life expectancy of an Indian male.
Now, while spiritualists would want me to believe that I have existed from anadi (before the beginning of cosmos) and will exist till ananta (infinity), I see forty-four years as a good enough time to find some meaning in one’s life. At least, my rapidly greying hair and receding hairline help me realize that.
Now, while it amazes me that I’ve been around that long — I feel like I’ve barely begun (except when I look at the actuarial table).
I’m not usually one to make a big deal about my birthday, but as always, it has given me an opportunity to reflect.
So, like I have done over the past few years –
– let me share the 44th lesson.
Let me first tell you a story.
It was a cold winter evening of December 1914. News came of a massive explosion in West Orange, New Jersey. More than half of the legendary inventor Thomas Edison’s manufacturing plant was in flames. Firefighters rushed to the scene, but the fire was too powerful to put out quickly. That fire had just cost Edison around $23 million in today’s money. But how did he react to such a huge loss? As recalled by his son Charles later, Edison calmly walked over to him and said, “Go get your mother and her friends. They’ll never see a fire like this again.” When Charles objected, Edison said, “It’s all right. We’ve just got rid of a lot of rubbish.”
Later, at the scene of the blaze, Edison was quoted as saying, “Although I am over 67 years old, I’ll start all over again tomorrow.” He did exactly that. Was there any other practical response than Edison’s? Of course, he could have felt miserable, wept, and yelled, or locked himself up in a state of gloom. Instead, he chose to smile at the incident, got his family to enjoy the spectacle, and decided to get back to work again without losing any time.
Edison’s story is a powerful example of the Stoic philosophy of ‘Amor Fati,’ which means ‘love of fate.’ It describes an attitude in which one sees everything that happens in one’s life, including loss and suffering, as good or, at the very least, necessary. It is associated with Friedrich Nietzsche, who said, “My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it…but love it.”
Life is unpredictable. And with 44 years behind me, I can guarantee that for a fact. We do not always get what we want. A lot of things can happen that will transform who we are and have an impact on our life.
Given this, we need to cultivate the ability to accept whatever comes and embrace it. Life will bring many challenges, such as job loss, ill-health, or death of someone we love, and it is not easy to accept them when we are suffering and wishing those things would have never happened. But if we start cultivating acceptance in our lives, we will likely cope with future crises in a different way and view them from a different perspective.
Acceptance does not mean that you are resigned to a life of just putting up with things. It is not resignation, or failure, or agreement. It is simply accepting the truth and allowing things to be as they are.
Sometimes you cannot change reality, even if you try. So instead of staring at the closed door in front of you or getting tired and bruised while you try to break it down, turn around and see how many other windows you have open.
Now, one good way I have found to practice acceptance is by stepping back and looking at previous bits of suffering I have had in my life. I write them down, and then assess what happened after I went through that suffering. Most likely, I can trace the growth and improvement that came from it years later.
Life has a way of unfolding, not as we wish it unfolds, but as it does. And sometimes, there is very little we can do to change things.
But when we accept ourselves and situations with all the flaws, we create a real sense of peace and let go of much of our suffering.
Life is short (44 years have already passed by!), so let me not waste another moment and thank you for being here for me.
As I begin my new circle around the Earth, and since you have come here for insights on investing, I would like you to perform a small exercise.
Print what follows below – Your Note of Acceptance as an Investor – and look at it frequently. It might help you deal better with the reality of the investing world.
Here it goes.
[My Note of Acceptance as an Investor]
I ACCEPT THAT…
- I will act stupid and envious at times and make mistakes, how much ever intelligent I am, and whatever resolution I make to avoid all mistakes this year.
- I, or anyone else, have no clue about the impact of macroeconomic or socio-political events on my investments.
- I, or anyone else, cannot predict the future of markets with any degree of accuracy, however certain things look like.
- I will lose a lot of money over time if I invest on tips, in bad businesses, with bad managements, and in expensive stocks.
- I may create wealth from stock market in the long run only if I practice patience in owning good businesses, not when I chase multibagger returns.
- Luck will play an important role in my investing, and especially when I make high returns in quick time.
- However good my investment process is, the outcome at times may not be to my liking.
Finally, it’s good to admit and accept that the future is inherently unknown and unknowable, and that there is no point blaming “uncertainty” for your investment or any mistakes and losses.
Relax, and learn to appreciate the thrill of finding out what happens next. That’s the best part of living a peaceful, happy life.
What you can control is your own behaviour – and only to a certain extent – and how you respond to whatever happens around you. For all things outside your control – including return on your investment – there is no point fearing the future.
I remind myself this everyday, and especially as I move rapidly towards ananta.
That’s about it from me for today.
Thank you for reading.
Stay happy, healthy, and peaceful.