In the spring of 1871, a young man picked up a book and read twenty-one words that had a deep effect on his future.
He was a medical student at the Montreal General Hospital, and was worried about passing the final examination. He was also worried about what to do in the future, how to build up a medical practice, and how to make a living.
These twenty-one words helped him to become the most famous physician of his generation. That’s not all. He organized the world-famous John Hopkins School of Medicine.
He was knighted by the King of England. When he died, two huge volumes containing almost 1,500 pages were required to tell the story of his life.
This man was Sir William Osler, and the twenty-one words that helped him live a life free from worry were…
“Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.”
Do what lies clearly at hand
This above quote from the Scottish satirical writer Thomas Carlyle that changed the life of Sir Osler has a significant lesson for investors as well.
This is because worrying is something most investors do. Even I used to worry a lot when I was starting out as an investor in 2003.
So I worried…
- What if this stock falls after I buy it?
- What if that company goes bankrupt after I buy its stock?
- What if the fund manager quits after I invest in this mutual fund?
- 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?
Whenever I was about to invest in a stock or a mutual fund, I would remember things that made me feel scared.
Then, the memories of the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the 2000 dot com bust were fresh in my mind. So every fall in the prices of my stocks – whatever little I’d managed to buy – made me shiver. I feared that the markets were about to get hit by another major crash.
As I look back to those times, I rue over the lost chances to buy some of India’s most wonderful companies at throwaway prices. Not because I did not know about them but because I was worried about the future.
Most of those stocks have moved up more than 5 times even after I factor in the 2008 crisis.
However, I still thank my stars for I managed to make some investments during those times and that have given me good returns over these years.
So it wasn’t that I was sitting there sucking my thumb all the time. I was doing it for most of the time, but there were times I wasn’t, and it helped me.
However, by the time the first major crisis (since 2003) hit the stock markets in 2008, I was well-prepared to deal with it.
I had already read the lessons that had helped Sir Osler and others like him lead a life free of worry, and it helped me prepare for the worst (that came in 2008) when things were still good (in 2006 and 2007).
The point I want to get to you is that worry is a silent killer, in life and in investing.
Medical experts suggest that constant worry can cause people to suffer from stomach ulcers and heart problems.
When it comes to investing, constant worry can keep you away from opportunities that can help grow your wealth significantly in the long run.
I’ve met people who worry so much about investing in stocks that they’ll abuse me the moment I tell them why this worry won’t get them anywhere.
Then there are others who aren’t worriers, but believe that investing in stocks is risky. And thus they also stay away from the markets.
Interestingly, I meet most of such people immediately after a stock market crash.
Stop worrying and start investing
See, I am not saying that you must go all out and invest in stocks blindly.
You must worry while parting with your hard-earned money, but that worry must be constructive…constructive in the sense that it must lead you to make the right investing decisions.
So you must…
- Worry about finding the right kind of stocks
- Worry what will happen if your decision goes wrong (so that you know what corrective action you’d take)
- Worry about getting emotionally attached with your investing decisions (when you are aware about your emotions, you are able to control them instead of being controlled by them)
- Worry about falling into the trap of bad investment advice (this will lead you to ask the right questions to your investment advisor so that you’re able to identify the right one from a majority of bad ones)
- Worry about being ignorant of how to analyze a company before investing in its stock (so that you prepare yourself to make educated decisions)
Mahatma Gandhi said, “There is nothing that wastes the body like worry, and one who has any faith in God should be ashamed to worry about anything whatsoever.”
So stop worrying about your financial future. Instead start worrying (and working) if you are not working on it right now.
The best way to prepare for tomorrow
We often blame our past and worry about our future.
The fact is that – and you also know this – 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.
Live in the present. Connect with it. Accept it. Experience the joy of being.
Do it NOW.
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.
When I was ten years old, my grandfather would draw me a house with windows and doors. He would tell me how many brick lengths the bottom and sides needed, and how many brick lengths each window and door would take.
Then he asked me how many bricks it would take to build the whole house. If I had trouble answering, he wouldn’t get upset.
He would simply say: “This is how you build a house. One brick at a time.”
Well, this is also how you build your wealth over the long term.
By not worrying about the future of stock prices or the size of your wealth, but by investing ‘now’…bit by bit.
Now tell me – As an investor, what do you worry about the most? Share your view in the comments below or post on our Facebook page.