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Dear Me

As adults, we all nurture the secret wish to go back in time and change a few things here and there, so that our life gets better than it is now, in the present.

“Ah, I wish I had studied harder during my masters!” some might resent.

“Only if I had chosen Commerce over Engineering!” is another common wish.

Some would say, “I would have been richer only if I had behaved better as an investor when I was just starting out.”

And then, “I wish I had started saving and investing 15 years back!”

Well, imagine you are given a chance to flip a switch to go back in time when you were young. What would you do?

Would your relive your carefree life?

Would you make a different choice so that your future is brighter than it is now?

Or you are one of those who believe that going back in time is impossible and thus you would like to leave your past alone?

Anyways, before I hear from you, here is a letter I have written to my 25-year-old self containing some words of guidance on what he (me) must do to live a better life in the future (than I am living now).

I am not trying to complain about my present (it’s more beautiful that I could have ever imagined). I’m just trying to cater to my human need of taking better control of things by doing some things better in the past. 🙂

Here I start.



Sept. 24, 2003

Dear me at age 25,

I am writing to you from the year 2012, having reached an age of 34. I haven’t stated feeling old yet, but I would still tender you some guidance on living a better, peaceful life.

All this because I love you so much that I would like to see you live a life brighter and better than I’ve done so far.

It’s great to see you complete you MBA and feel proud of your new job in the stock market – that funny place where your ego can grow faster than your wealth, and before you know it you can be consumed by the shiny stuff you see all around.

Before I continue, let me tell you that I am not here to disappoint you or depress you talking about your probable future.

I just want you to see things in better light – lest you may blame others for any wrong that may come to you of your own doing.

So here are a few things I want to tell you about yourself and your future. Hopefully, they’ll save you some pain.

Time is short, and thus I will restrict myself to just ten points of guidance, which I wish someone had given to me when I was your age.

Here I begin.

One, you will be at high risk of burning off early being in this industry where your mind will be expected work 24×7. So make sure you take out time to listen to music and create art like you have been doing over the past 10 years. However busy, rich, or old you grow, don’t ever kill the child within you, or you would regret it.

Two, a great man once said that you need just three things to succeed in life – energy, intelligence, and integrity – and without the last one, i.e., integrity, the first two can lead you to hell. So watch out, especially because you will find the last one missing in a lot of people around you.

Three, don’t ever lose your health chasing wealth. Always remain in great shape. People will take you to be smarter than you are. Believe me, it’s true!

Four, don’t take your future plans too seriously. The future will always surprise you. So live each day as it comes, do your hard work, and leave everything else to God.

Five, even if you feel like the “master of the Universe” at times, keep your belief in God intact. This is because if you don’t believe in Him and He does not exist, you will be fine. But if He exists, you might face greater troubles in your afterlife.

Six, in your hour of pride or while you go through extreme hardships in your career and life, always remember the six words that are true and appropriate in all times and situations – “And this, too, shall pass away.”

Seven, I read somewhere that, like love, resistance to temptation can make your heart grow stronger. So whatever you do in the rest of your life, just resist the temptation – good or bad. Always remember what your grandma told you – “Have patience, never be greedy, fearful, or jealous.”

Eight, don’t be totally self-obsessed. If you spend just ten percent of your time thinking about others instead of worrying just about your waist, taste, stocks and bank balance, you will feel more content and have a greater respect for life.

Nine, and this is specific to your life as a stock market analyst and investor – please, please, please read “The Intelligent Investor” by Benjamin Graham and Warren Buffett’s letters to shareholders…not once but several times over, and make your notes. I did this a bit later than I should have…and thus regret. You shouldn’t!

Ten, buy stocks as if you have only 20 chances to do so in this life. In short, make careful choices. And please, please buy some stock in Asian Paints, HDFC, and Titan Industries…and hold them for the next 10 years. Seriously. You’ll thank me later.

I believe in you, and look forward to respecting you more than I do now.

Sincerely,
The 34-year-old You



If as an adult, you could send a letter to your 20 or 25-year-old self, what words of guidance, advice or other message would you put in it? You can be specific in terms of your guidance on investing, or you could mention your advice on life as well? Share in Comments below.

The inspiration for this post came from here

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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. That’s great advice…but I disagree with #5 😉

    • Thanks Fabian, but you can’t disagree with any of these points…because these are advice to “my” younger self. Your advice to your own younger self can be totally different. 😉

      And I would love to know that if you are willing to share. 🙂 Regards.

      • Haha granted 😉

        As to my reasoning:
        1) It feels to me that the “opportunity cost” of leading a life guided by belief in god is very high (for instance I would rather spend my time reading your blog than praying)
        2) To believe in god so you can have a nicer afterlife strikes me as a bit deceitful 😉

        • Well, that’s a Pascal’s wager that I am favouring:

          1. If you believe in God and God does exist, you will be rewarded with eternal life in heaven: thus an infinite gain.
          2. If you do not believe in God and God does exist, you will be condemned to remain in hell forever: thus an infinite loss.
          3. If you believe in God and God does not exist, you will not be rewarded: thus a finite loss.
          4. If you do not believe in God and God does not exist, you will not be rewarded, but you have lived your own life: thus a finite gain.

          From the above probabilities, it is a much better choice to believe in God rather than not. Thus I am advising my younger self to maximize his gains here. 😉

          • Yes, but I am not sure your stay in heaven will be infinite if god finds out (as he surely will) that the basis of your belief is the maximization of your gains.

            Aside from that, there is uncertainty about whether god will penalize nonbelief – and there is also the question of which god to believe in?

          • Thanks Vishal ji …… I also do agree with pascal’s wager….. I was atheistic and independently developed reasoning like pascal’s wager … thus turning into agnostic …. the faith induced by private religion is too good. #naya mulaa Allah allah hi karta hai 😀

            It is a pleasure to read a letter like this at the age of 18 😉

  2. Good one Vishal.
    I have a checklist which looks similar to this.
    I read it every day so that it gets reinforced and I do not forget it.

    Regards,
    Jana

  3. Anil Kumar Tulsiram says:

    Great one Vishal

    There are many things which I regret and the most important one’s are:

    1) Never be too worried about future and balance your work life atleast on weekly basis if not on daily basis.

    2) I wish instead of WASTING my precious four years of my life doing CFA, I had read books written by or on great investors like Warren Buffet, Christopher Browne, Seth Klarman, Martin Whitman etc.

    3) Being too workaholic, never gave enough importance to health. Now that I am working independently, try to be more regular with my exercise. Realized very late that even if you are an atheist, meditation will still help you lot.

    • Thanks for sharing this Anil! And not to regret as you can assume the older you giving this advice to the present you. 🙂

      You raised a nice point about meditation. That’s a great way to connect with the inner you. Regards.

  4. Thanks Vishal. Here is my list.

    1. Be Humble.
    2. Wisdom acquisition is a moral duty. It’s not just something you do to advance in life.
    3. In your own life, what you want is a seamless web of deserved trust.
    4. Deliver what you’d want to buy if the circumstances were reversed.
    5. Envy has no upside.
    6. Help Others.
    7. Exercise everyday.
    8. Eat Healthy.

    Regards,
    Jana

  5. ha ha. a good letter to yourself. as you say to each one his own.
    in hindsight we are all wise …. so granted. I think just enjoy each moment and each day and give anything you do your best shot. frankly that is all you can do in any case. 🙂
    now I need to resolve to finish reading the intelligent investor ! thank you for reminding umpteen times.

  6. always feels nice to read your thoughts because i am teen strugling with life 🙁
    but i jus love the art of investment, its my 5th month of investment and having gain of 50% gain on my saving of 2000rs
    i have read many thing from intelligent investor on net but not complete book
    yours thankfully

    • Hi Mihir,
      Wish i had started investing in my teens !! and wish your liking for investments grows with time !
      Cheers,
      austin.

      • thanks austin but i m very poor at my academics as i am studying science & i failed this year so by sitting at home i fell for investment via internet
        As of investment, my problem is i keep on looking for undervalued instead of investing in blue chips as they have quite high pe so i get scared to invest in blue chips 🙁

    • All the very best Mihir..:) Keep going..:)

  7. R K Chandrashekar says:

    Dear Vishal
    It is difficult to write to oneself, but you have done it well!
    Random thoughts of an erratic mind- here i go!!
    The first and foremost advice I would give myself would be this:
    1.”The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be”. As a corollary, it is often said” when one door closes, the other opens”. We are so focused on the closed door that we fail to see the open one!!
    2. The past is history, and the future is a mystery, The ”Present” is a gift and I would like to live in the now. How I wish i could simply delete the past- Ctrl+Alt+ Del !!
    3. Take 100% responsibility for my life- not to blame others.
    4. Wish I could know the purpose of my existence and leave a legacy behind.
    5. It is said that the greatest strategy for success, is to act as if you are already where you want to be- A very powerful visualizing tool .
    6. Wish to go back to school- and reconnect with old friends- alas, I have not kept in contact. Power of networking started very late in my professional life.
    7. Would like to surround myself with successful people.
    8. Be Gentle, act with kindness, offer help to the needy, forgive and forget, never take enmity to the grave.
    9. Get over the fear of fear itself.
    10. Need to live in harmony-Everything thing in balance- sound mind in a sound body. Continue my morning walks-very regular,health checkups-yes, yoga(not done for a year ) and become more spiritual- not ritualistic.
    Ps: No wishlist regarding investment- Since i started investing in the Asian Paints, HUL, L & T , ITC, Infy, HDFC Bank, Hero Honda, etc many years ago. Now when the mkt is rising, i am reducing my equity component and moving to FD. Given my age and risk profile, i am keen to bring it down from 90 % currently to 65-70 % and the PC-Manmohan combo is helping me now!! However the younger tribesman need to stay invested, and not to buy now- wait for the market to fall- think intrinsic value and margin of safety.

  8. Truly inspiring. Thank you all.

  9. Good post, Vishal…:) I loved the concept of writing letter to oneself..:)
    I have also started writing letter to myself..:) It’s such a wonderful feeling..:)

  10. By the way, the website is looking better then before…:)

  11. i am science student but suddenly fell in love with equities, i learned to see balance sheet, investment theories of gurus but still i dont understand many things like buffet letters & cash flow
    Vishal sir blogs makes it easier to understand buffett letters but still i dnt understnd DCF coz of my non commerce background
    Yours Thankfully

  12. vishal sir you are elder to me & admire your thoughts very much especially your letter to your daughter,but disagree on you fifth point
    May be coz i belong to family who worships god, but i think god exists & god is the creator of universe, sir i request you to read bhagvad gita just once if you have not read that.
    Yours Thankfully

  13. R K Chandrashekar says:

    Few points of clarification/elaboration: Point No: 7: Success is not necessarily in materialistic terms but Happy and Contented people.
    Ps: Note on investment for fellow tribesman who are young/begun the investment journey now: Have patience- stay invested for the long term-think intrinsic value-have margin of safety and let the power of compounding work for you.

  14. Vishal, Your article reminds of the saying that life is the only school where the exam is given first and lesson later !! Im sure the wiser way would be to ‘invert’ and learn form others ‘lessons’ …. easier said than done of course !
    Austin.

    • Indeed Austin! And thus this letter is not really for me but for a 25-year old who is in a similar place in life as I was nine years back. Very much like what Mr. Chandrashekar advised is not really for his younger self, but for me and you. That’s vicarious learning at its best.

  15. ankur bhatia says:

    Hi Vishal,

    Nice article I would like to add following points:

    1. Age of cut throat competition is getting over so learn to share-always remember if you want to go fast walk alone, if you want to go far walk together

    2. Learn and read different subjects and try form connections. Idea is to have multidisciplinary thinking.

    3. Deepen your knowledge and widen your horizon

    4.Happiness is not going to come thru renouncing everything we have known but deepening our understanding of how things can be made beneficial for our growth,development and balancing of spiritual with material nature

    5. Don’t fret over own negative charateristics it’s your nature you can’t remove them at best u can manage them.Instead focus on cultivating positive qualities in life hence reducing negative qualities relatively.

    6. Read about real history of our great country India which is far greater and deeper than what people know or read in school and college- read book essays by Dharampal

    7. Remeber it’s all about how well qualified you are to do the task rather than educated. Irrespective of education you can hone your skills and qualify for doing the task better

    8. Drop by drop makes ocean so be persistent and have realistic targets.Break big goals into smaller achievable tasks.Power of compounding works here as well

    9. Always contribute to the poor section in the society and remember non-monetary contribution is more important

    10. Develop your independent thinking and not speak language of newspaper or TV they are seldom correct or unbiased

  16. Hi Vishal,
    Great Post
    Few questions on point number 10.
    A 34-year old self mentioned to 25-year-old self to buy stocks of Titan Industries, Asian Paints, and HDFC.
    I have a done some basic analysis of these three stocks in 2003-04. In 2003-04, Titan Industries was trading at an average P/E multiple of 34x, Asian Paints at an average P/E multiple of 22x and HDFC at an average P/B multiple of 3.4x (being NBFC).
    Do you think that that such high multiples would have given us “Margin of Safety” at that time? Further, if I have tried to calculate intrinsic value in 2003-04 using:
    DCF (with 10% and 8% growth rate), EPV, Price related to 10 year average P/E ratio, and Graham Number, I would have got much lower fair value compared to market price at that time (I have not done these but I am guessing). So, I would have convinced myself not to invest in these stocks.
    I agree that these were and are great business but due to “Margin of Safety” I would have not invested in these stocks in 2003-04.
    Please guide me where I am wrong in my thought process !!!!!!
    Thanks
    mukesh

    • Thanks for the analysis, Mukesh! And analytically, you have the right thought process. But these stock recommendations are based on hindsight – great businesses that will unfold in such a way that the 2003 valuations will look attractive. Of course this was not known then, but then I am writing from 2012. 🙂

      • Sunny Gupta says:

        Yes, and that’s where Investments are beyond pure analytical logic…using the wisdom of hindsight, I’d argue: What are the odds that Asian paints as a business would deteriorate? The customers go away, and what can make Mr Market deject this stock and throw it in the bin? If after asking these questions 10 times, I find no reason, I’ll be convinced that these stocks will always trade at high valuations due to inherent superb quality of their business fundamentals…and then I have to take a call, whether to buy them or not…

        Its a deviation, but I’d try to find the odds of CMP being lower than future Intrinsic Value…so, there’re two ways to find undervalued stocks…

        1. Assuming constant IV, find ones trading cheaper than current IV

        2. Having strong reasons like excellent business fundamentals to justify a certain rate of growth of IV, and then estimating how soon will the IV exceed the CMP…and then after what point my investment break even, etc…

        I know doing #2 is much more difficult, but I’m trying to experiment these today with BHARTIARTL and IGL…promising businesses for future (urban gas usage and explosive growth in data communication) so that strong reasons to believe that IV will continue to grow in future, and accodingly, even if CMP is slightly higher than current IV, I think IV will exceed CMP in next 1-2 years, and then I’ll enjoy the ride forward for next 10-15 years 🙂

        • Sunny one quick question to you.. What was the reason for IGL for the rise in debt ( from zero to 0.3, though not very high, but want to know for my understanding)?

  17. Sep 28, 2010

    ok dadhich listen up,

    you are doing it all right but a few things

    +. Stop wasting your time by being at point of confusion ………
    Just choose commerce.
    You did a right thing by, folding a page in two, listing both downside and upside of choosing science and commerce respectively.
    ….. you have done you reasoning ….. now keep in mind what ben graham said … “you are neither right or wrong because crowd said so .. you are right because you reasoning is right.”
    teachers and classmates will yell, that a student like you should have chosen science, don’t worry; there are a billion more people who can do an engineer’s job instead of you.

    +. keep on reading that e book ” The Warren Buffett ( spell it right ) way” …… keep those notes on print paper rather then copy past on note pad file …. here in 2012 I didn’t did that.sigh.

    +. get an internet connection …. it will introduce you to some one named Charlie Munger …. ummm … somebody like you …. but i think it was a good thing that happened in due course of time….. you will find out your self ….. that’s fun of life ……. want hint ……. read warren buffett portfolio with a great care …… this name was in front of me right there in bold on 17 inch TFT screen … and i missed it .sigh.

    +. f__k * those 10th board examinations ( it can be pronounced only “10th board” too) coming in march … no body cares 😉 believe me, would you.

    +. now underscoring last point ….. till this date from sep 2010 … no big operation/accident/parents death etc.#

    I am my dear me
    myself’s most affectinately
    mohammed ….. errr …. Dheeraj .

    * dont worry, you don’t know what will fill these blanks, Yet.
    #roman word hai ….. “et-cetre” thoda bahut aajo-baajo chalayga

  18. Eswar Santhosh says:

    If I think of my investing (part of) life in isolation, I would have passed numerous ‘tips’ to myself back in time. But, even if I had passed stock ideas back in time, I would not have the right temperament to hold them (or even if I did, would have done something more idiotic with the profits earned). This fool and his money would have parted anyways ;-).

    If I have to sincerely think about my life as a whole, this would be the only line in the letter:

    This too shall pass

    Why? Because what I am today is a direct result of all experiences – both good and bad. I went through some turbulent times and in the midst of them, I’ve had some wonderful little experiences. The bad periods were hard to get through while I was experiencing them, but have turned into great lessons down the road.

    I do have plenty of regrets like all the others, but there are two sides to every story. For instance, the investing mistakes, most of them silly in hindsight, are all I need to revisit whenever I feel ‘too good’ about myself. Likewise, even among things I consider a terrible waste of time / focus / funds / energy in hindsight, I learned a little something. Their impact may not have been big on the whole, but learning what not to do is what I consider equally, if not more important than learning what to do.

    The positive experiences did not leave a great impact on my thought process (much like 50% gains hardly put a smile, but a 30% loss can quickly invert the smiley upside down). But, what I carry from them is hope that things always get better when everything looks bleak and it’s only a question of when rather than if.

    In summary, over the past decade, whatever I tried, I ended up learning more about myself (and others). Wouldn’t want to change that part a bit.

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