Why There’s No Best Way to Invest
It’s Sunday morning, and every Sunday morning I walk down the street to this meditation center to sit and meditate for an hour.
You might remember that time I went to a 10-day silent meditation retreat. When I got back I was meditating two hours every day, because that’s what the instructor told us to do.
Well, you can probably guess that meditating for two hours a day doesn’t last very long unless you’re some monk living up in the mountains.
In the real world two hours turns into one hour and one hour turns into 30 minutes. Luckily the 30 minutes stuck, but I like to stretch it to an hour on Sundays.
Anyways, at this center there’s always an umdze — a time-keeper — who rings a gong every 30 minutes. The gong lets you know it’s time to stand and do five minutes of walking meditation.
So last Sunday the umdze rings the gong. Everyone gets up and starts walking the perimeter of the room.
Five minutes comes and goes and we’re still walking. Then another five minutes. Still walking.
Now I’m thinking to myself, “I’m going to sit down, because I came here to meditate.”
Finally, the gong rings.
As I’m settling back onto the cushion it strikes me: I had two equally beneficial choices.
First, keep walking. That would cultivate patience, a desirable trait. Second, go sit down. Taking action is also a desirable trait.
So, what was the “best” answer?
Of course, there is no best answer. Each choice comes with it’s own set of benefits and drawbacks.
And that’s what I’m learning lately. Things are never black and white, only shades of gray. Which is why you hear so much conflicting advice about investing.
Sell in May and go away, also don’t time the market.
Diversify, also put all your eggs in one basket and watch that basket.
The trend is your friend, also don’t follow the herd.
Pay up for high quality stocks, also never overpay.
Get out when you get even, also cut your losses and move on.
It’s not a loss, it’s a buying opportunity, also don’t lose money.
This time it’s different, also stay the course.
Don’t catch a falling knife, also buy the dip.
And while I’m sitting here typing these, I started thinking how the same can be said about your career and life:
Have mentors and trusted advisors, also listen to your intuition.
Implement habits and routines, also don’t get stuck in a rut.
Be persistent and disciplined, also fail fast fail often.
Become self-reliant, also outsource your life.
Take the slow and steady approach, also take risks.
Work 100-hour weeks, also get 9 hours of sleep.
Think big picture, also zone in on the details.
Focus on scaling, also do things that don’t scale.
Take this last one. I was thinking that if you email me you get a reply. I’ve responded to literally thousands of emails. Probably tens of thousands.
And you can make the argument that sending personal email doesn’t scale. It’s a waste of time when you can be doing a hundred other things that do scale. You’d be right.
But you do it because you enjoy doing it, because you enjoy serving people.
And some emailers, perfect strangers, have become friends. There are email chains spanning hundreds of messages and multiple years.
Yeah, I do things that scale too, like writing this article, but what’s important is knowing why you’re doing things the way you’re doing them. Always challenging your beliefs.
What I’m trying to say is don’t just take whatever advice you hear and blindly follow it, because nothing in life is so black and white.
Investing, just like your career and life, consists of choices that come with their own benefits and drawbacks. As long as you understand that, you’re going to be just fine.