Premium Value Investing NewsletterDownload Free Issue

Buffett, Buddha, and Pizzas

Why does the obese guy (who says he wants to lose weight) eat a large pizza when nobody’s watching?

I have a friend who does this often, and here are the three reasons he gives…

  1. He doesn’t want people to know
  2. It gives him instant pleasure, and
  3. If he doesn’t eat the pizza (thereby delaying gratification) it won’t give him instant weight-loss (something he desires)…

…and thus, instant pleasure (in this case, pizza) is what he chooses, and often.

This is then followed by an hour or two of self-loathing.

“There’s always the next time!” he told me after his latest indulgence.

Pizzas Anyone?
Over the past few years, I have kicked away a few things out of my life…including pizzas, soft drinks, other junk, and recently coffee…basically, things that controlled me.

Luckily, I have had a complete family support here, as my wife has hated this stuff for long, and my daughter hasn’t tasted much of these.

A few grown up friends are surprised to know that my daughter has never tasted a soft drink in her life – and she is nine now – despite the peer pressure all around.

“At least, let her taste it once,” most would often tell me.

My Munger-ish reply – “You don’t have to pee on an electric fence to learn not to do it.”

Earlier we “showed” her why she must not consume soft drinks. Now she does it out of choice – knowing well the long-term effect of the short-term pleasure a soft drink offers.

Marshmallow Experiment
Here is a video Prof. Sanjay Bakshi shared recently at a conference and then on his blog.

It’s a TED speech of motivational speaker, Joachim de Posada, the co-author of a book titled “Don’t Eat the Marshmallow”.

The book, and the following video, is based on experiments in delayed gratification – showing why self-discipline is better than a lack of discipline.


If you can’t watch the video above, watch here.

You can easily replace “marshmallow” with “pizza” in the above video, and the context won’t change.

For most of us, our inability to say no (to certain things), has been, is, and will be, the thing that stands between us and success.

At least until we determine to choose, do and be different.

More often than not, putting off pleasure ‘in the now’ is the difference between failure and success over the long term.

This is true when it comes to transforming our bodies, or transforming our financial lives.

Think drugs, tobacco, alcohol, pizza, sitting on the couch…or even investing in bad businesses in the expectation of making a quick return – we are all looking for quick fixes…things that make us happy now.

The future be damned!

Short-Term Gain and Long-Term Pain
Warren Buffett wrote in his 2012 letter to shareholders…

Investing is often described as the process of laying out money now in the expectation of receiving more money in the future. At Berkshire Hathaway we take a more demanding approach, defining investing as the transfer to others of purchasing power now with the reasoned expectation of receiving more purchasing power — after taxes have been paid on nominal gains — in the future.

More succinctly, investing is forgoing consumption now in order to have the ability to consume more at a later date.

Working with hundreds of small investors over the last ten years, it’s been my experience and observation that instant gratification – the want to earn money fast – is what brings many of us down.

However, what people fail to understand is that being addicted to pleasure in the now – like of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, junk food, or even hot stocks – is usually synonymous with pain and disappointment over the long term.

Our short-term gain becomes our long-term pain.

This is especially when that short-term gain – sugar, salt, caffeine, or the ‘kick’ from quick stock market returns – creates almost-instant biochemical changes in our physiology.

Like my friend told me numerous times prior to the 2008 stock market crash – “Oh I love that stock! It has earned me 50% in less than a month!”

I could feel the pride on his face, his glowing eyes, and his “willingness” to do it again i.e., continue to grow his money 50% in less than a month!

Anyways, that friend of mine has closed his stock trading account, and is now working on weekends to repay his debts.

Junk that Pizza!
After having suffered the after-effects of pizzas and Cokes for some time, now more than ever before, I’m convinced that most people who ultimately want to transform their lives (and their financial lives) are barking up the wrong tree.

As I have realized, in terms of success or failure, the critical issue is not…

  • What I know (surprisingly, isn’t it?),
  • What I understand, or
  • What resources I have at my disposal

Rather, what would bring me success or failure would depend entirely on what I am willing to give up in ‘the now’ to get where I want to go in the future.

It’s about delaying gratification.

Now, whatever someone would tell you, this isn’t a 100-meter race.

You are not going to junk that pizza overnight. It’s a long-drawn process, and with withdrawal symptoms.

Of course, you will meet people who would want to sell you instant and painless solutions to help you get over your instant gratification problems….


…but please understand that the real change process is typically a messy, uncomfortable, inconvenient and painful one.

But that’s something you must go through, if you aim to achieve any success in your life and investing.

Our brain is, after all, hard-wired for immediate rewards and can delay gratification for just little more than a few minutes.

We’re brought up to want it all and want it now. This short-term focus robs many of us of so many things in life, including happiness, good health, and wealth.

The reality, as I’ve understood over the years and what I’ve learned from legendary investors, is that few things that are really worthwhile are easy – like creating wealth over the long run. Nor do they happen instantly.

The more you can zoom out on your life, look at the bigger picture, and then take small steps towards a better long-term life, the happier you will end up being.

Anyways, in order to fool my hard-wired brain, I hide behind the teachings of Buffett and Buddha – both of whom tell me to disregard instant gratification in pursuit of my long-term objectives.

Buddha tells me this…

To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.

And here’s what I’ve learned from Buffett…

Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.

So plant a tree…and please learn to avoid that pizza!

You owe it to your child’s future.

Print Friendly
About the Author

Vishal Khandelwal is the founder of Safal Niveshak. He works with small investors to help them become smart and independent in their stock market investing decisions. He is a SEBI registered Research Analyst. Connect with Vishal on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Rajaram S says:

    I always wonder how you come up with thoughtful and profound writings almost 2 or 3 times a week. Clearly, wisdom has seeped deep into you, that is why it is gushing out so often. Thanks for sharing!

    These frequent reminders on the right ways to think are very valuable. Interestingly, Buddha & Buffett are also 2 of my top teachers. The Buddha has helped me desire to see life in a simple, but honest manner without pretensions and assumptions. And Buffett has helped me show a path to long term wealth, without indulging in exhausting and harmful measures.

    Earn money through good and gentle means (without salivating in competition like many employees do), spend with care – do not leverage from the future, invest available money wisely in sound ventures of friends or good publicly traded companies is the road to wealth. And being in the present, being gentle and compassionate – not wilfully hurting any being, practicing basic human values, and knowing that suffering occurs out of attachment to objects that are impermanent is the road to a good life.

    Then of course, in the end our own wealth and our own life is impermanent too, so gracefully accepting that even “OUR” wealth and “OUR” life is actually not ours, but is a transient phenomenon that will change….

    Buddha and Buffet are great teachers, I bow before them..

    • To Vishal’s article you have probably unknowingly added another small article with this post of yours.

      On the Buddha which articles or books or websites do you refer to ? Kindly do share.

      • I cannot think of any one book where I have read about the Buddha’s teachings! But I have been reading his snippets from a very young age. I would be careful about reading too much about him, lest we begin to intellectualize his words! His words are not to be read to become a recognized scholar, but more to apply simple principles to live a great life. There is this facebook site called, “Buddhism – Path To Peace”. This gives good snippets. Also check wiki – gives the jest of his approach. I also learnt a lot when I did the Vipassana course. Importantly, do not approach it as a religion. Approach it as a honest study, and put it to test in life, slowly and gain your own experience. Buddha in my opinion, brought out the essence of the then Indian philosophy (call it Hindu if you want to), and gave that essence to all (including large parts of society who were excluded from this knowledge so that a few upper classes could keep the benefits) . Most importantly, do not complicate things, keep looking for the essence, the core. Leave out the complex intellectual constructions that have been made by those seeking recognition and scholarship, rather than the truth. Hope this was useful! 🙂

        • Absolutely. Thanks for the encouragement and the caveat, appreciate the latter.
          We end up complicating simple things.
          We cheat and lie and expect others to be honest with us.
          We harbour opinions and dislikes and expect everyone to be loving.
          As Kabir said “Bura jo dekhen main chala ……”

      • Sudhir, you can check out these two books from Thich Nhat Hanh…

        1. Living Buddha, Living Christ
        2. The Heart Of Buddha’s Teaching

        Regards,
        Vishal

    • Thanks Rajaram for sharing your wonderful thoughts as always!

      Really loved these words – “…in the end our own wealth and our own life is impermanent too, so gracefully accepting that even “OUR” wealth and “OUR” life is actually not ours, but is a transient phenomenon that will change…”

    • Rajaram, thanks also for sharing “Buddhism – Path To Peace”. Regards.

  2. Once Again..an amazing and enlightening Article & Over that it always come when it’s needed urgently! Thank you Vishal & Safalniveshak team. Great Job

  3. I attended a training workshop and its message has stuck to my mind : “Enthusiasm without discipline is a recipe for disaster.” This post reaffirms the same thought albeit in a different way.

    Truly, controlling ones desires and being good to oneself (and in the process to others) is a simple message but it is surprising how few understand it and fewer still follow it.

  4. Akhilesh Pathak says:

    Dear Vishal and Tribesmen,

    Yet another amazing article and insightful comments by tribesmen !

    When thoughts, actions and a good wife’s reactions are in sync and contrary to popular belief, you can be rest assured that you are on right path!!

    Problem of the world is the “pleasure of now” and clutched by this feeling, most of us forget the “power of now” to create future. When happiness start emanating from consumption rather than consciousness, status symbol becomes car and house rather than knowledge, character and behavior, days and nights become the time to indulge, party harder and not the moments to enjoy the nature, sunrise and sunset , we must realize we have lost the purpose of life.

    “Find out for yourself what are the possessions and ideals that you do not desire. By knowing what you do not want, by elimination, you will unburden the mind, and only then will it understand the essential which is ever there.” – J Krishnamurti

    If Buffet’s way to wealth is inaction, Munger’s magic is psychology and behavior and Bogle’ friend was time and impulse his enemy why don’t we understand that only things which matter in investing ( and for that matter in life) are knowing that you don’t know much, doing what other people hate doing and practicing what most of us only preach.

    I have realized how the heart, mind and body direct you to only one goal every day, if you want to listen to them. We seldom listen to silence, we listen to noises. Noise can neither guide you nor can give you peace.

    “You are the Truth from foot to brow. Now, what else would you like to know?” – Rumi

    Warm Regards

    Akhilesh

    • Indeed Akhilesh!

      Thoughts, actions and a good wife’s reactions must be in sync for you to get and keep going on the right path! And I feel happy to know that you are on one such beautiful journey.

      Thanks for sharing Rumi’s thoughts!

    • Wow, this article along with the contributions from tribes members is so pure an pristine. I loved every comment. Thank you all.

  5. Loved your article very much Vishal ji and also the tremendous comments by other tribesmen. Truly value enriching in both finance and personal ife management.
    One thing I have observed now a days, and some of you might have also observed the same, that now a days people are becoming very short tempered and get irritated very soon. I thing..that is also one of the gift which western life style has given. Some examples: be it traffic jam, over speed after traffic jam clears, waiting in the queue etc.
    Glad to learn about Buddha teaching, something who wants to know more and renunciation should also look at the work of Swami Vivekananda also.
    I have been reading his article and some of the book about his life and life philosophy and found it very moral uplifting and motivating.
    Coincidently, if somebody is a fan of self help/motivational book/stuff then I would suggest that reading about swami Vivekananda would place you in a different stratosphere.
    Reading about Swami Vivekananda regards special attention now a days..when today whole or majority of the nation is in depressed mood due to differently scandle happening every now and then…..i myself used to get disturbed when I used to read about different scandles and how the person involved in the scandals used to roam around freely. This behavior which now a days most of the genuine countrymen are experiencing is called “Learned helplessness”.
    After reading Swami Vivekananda I felt relieved and emotions or aggression against the system smoothened and head become balanced.

    Regards,
    Kishor.

Trackbacks

  1. […] quick solutions and expecting instant gratification; […]

  2. […] generation. But then, I’ve come to understand over a period of time that in these days of instant gratification, there are still some things that simply require consistent effort and commitment over […]

  3. […] of us run after short term gains, and are willing to sacrifice our intelligence and independence to earn […]

Speak Your Mind

*