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Investor, Are You a Warrior or Worrier?

Here is a nice little story I read recently.

One day, a timid young swordsman sought the counsel of an older, battled-hardened warrior.

“Sir, the men say that, of all the King’s warriors, you are the most courageous.”

The old warrior, who was busy sharpening his sword and who spoke only when necessary, didn’t lift his head or utter a single word. He was not impressed by flattery, so he continued to sharpen his blade; the blade that had seen him through many battles.

Listening and sharpening. Listening and sharpening.

Before long, the young warrior felt uneasy…and fearful.

For a minute, words escaped him but all the while, he stared at the enormous sword in the scarred hands of its owner. Powerful hands that seemed to be covered in leather. Hands that had fought for more years than the boy had lived.

In that moment, he felt overwhelmingly inadequate.

To his credit, he continued, “Sir, I just want to know, aren’t you ever afraid…going into battle, I mean?”

The old warrior slowly lifted his head, placed his sword across his knees and fixed his gaze upon the boy soldier.

“Every day.”

The young warrior was shocked. He had not anticipated such an answer.

“But Sir, how can you be both courageous and scared.”

“Son, without fear there can be no courage.”

And with that, the lesson was over.

Am I a warrior or a worrier?
As an investor, I live this lesson each and every day…

…always wondering whether I’m a worrier who fears the imposing challenge of attaining my financial freedom…

…or a warrior bravely facing this challenge.

But this story has taken me to another paradigm altogether.

As the old warrior says, “Without fear there can be no courage.”

So if I need to become a warrior of an investor, being a worrier can indeed be rewarding.

It’s almost impossible to go through life without experiencing some kind of fear…especially the fear of failure…and then doing the hard work of actively (and mentally) working against this fear.

However, the wonderful thing about fear is that it’s entirely up to us to decide how to look at it.

So we can choose to see fear as a proof of just how inadequate we are to cope with it (by simply worrying about the outcome).

On the other hand, we can look at fear as the incredible experience that leads us to fight it tooth and nail in the pursuit of our goals (by becoming a warrior against it).

There’s no doubt that most of us will stumble and fall in life. This is more so when we are playing the investing game, with all its cliffs and gorges.

Doors will get slammed in our faces, and we might make some bad decisions. But think of the opportunities you’ll miss if you let your fears stop you.

I’m sure our old warrior (old simply for the experience he has as an investor), Mr. R K Chandrashekar, who’s been investing for the last 30+ years, will vouch for the fact that you can succeed as an investor only if you can get over your fear – especially your fear of failure – and keep moving ahead in your financial life, come what may.

I mean, since 1978, the Indian economy and stock markets have faced innumerable fear situations. But then to remain an investor – and do very well at that – is a big deal.

You see, it’s very often that we get the most valuable insights in our life only after we overcome a fear. Accepting and learning from those insights is key to succeeding in life…and as an investor.

I wrote a post in May on why you must start worrying about your finances. My reasoning was that – and I had quoted a research done by a Yale University economics professor – financial angst (especially, the threat of losing money) is one of the most effective motivators for people to get on track in their financial lives.

In other words, some anxiety about whether you are heading in the right direction with respect to your personal finances can serve as a great motivator for you to try and get (or remain) on the right track to financial freedom.

It is this fear, this anxiety, that helped me grow my savings by 9,200% during the period 2003 and 2011, which helped me in paying off my home loan, and which helped me quit my job to start work on my passion that is now in front of you.

The questions I’ve asked myself regularly over these years are:

  • What would happen if an emergency were to take place and I am not prepared financially to meet it?
  • What if I don’t have enough money to fund my retirement 20 years down the line?
  • What if something happens to me while I don’t have a term insurance cover? Who will take care of my parents, wife, and children?
  • What if the companies whose stocks I’m looking to buy turn bankrupt?
  • What if my investment returns are not able to beat inflation over the next 20 years, when I would need money for my child’s marriage and my retirement?

You’ll agree these are some worrisome questions to answer for every investor. You or I are no different.

But then, answering these questions and then working towards practically implementing the answers is what I believe has made me a warrior.

Anyways, here is something I recently read on Facebook, which assimilates in beautiful words, the entire thought about overcoming our fears and worries, and facing life as a warrior…

When nothing else works, then motivate yourself to take action by vividly visualizing yourself dead with all your dreams and aspirations unattempted, half attempted or incomplete. If this doesn’t stir you into action, perhaps nothing will.

This motivates the constant “worrier” within me to remain a “warrior” and face the biggest battle of my life – my financial freedom – with courage.

What about you? As an investor, are you are a worrier, or are you also a warrior, and how? Let me know in the Comments section below.

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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. shankar says:

    That was a wonderful article Vishal…:)
    I guess everyone will enter the Investing arena as Warriors in the beginning. Only fraction of people will be transformed as Successful Warriors and rest as Successful Worriers.

  2. Vishal you have been always very good in articulating the point , what you have mentioned here is something which is a learned behaviour by observation , very often we keep observing several such behaviourial patterns and to know which one will help you to succeed requires an article like this where one realises the real essence that in life everything works with enthusiasm except in investing , one needs to be fearful and vigilant that’s where the right actions are provoked through being a warrior . As you rightly said worrier can also trigger two paths it’s important to understand this behaviourial pattern and choose the warrior one .

  3. karthik says:

    Vishal .. nice Points …
    You can add these also…
    > I told you,, you cannot make returns in equities…
    > I Told u buy a house .. take a big home loan,, so that u can get tax savings
    > ULIP/policies are always good..

    U need to be a warrior to fend off these thoughts and concentrate yourself..

  4. sanjeevbhatia says:

    Very Nice Article, Vishal. and so true. It is only fear that can motivate us to work harder and in more intelligent way to remove the cause of fear – be it untimely death, financial inadequacy or any other goal.

    I can relate very closely to this as it was fear – that if something unfortunate were to happen to me, the dreams I have for my family will be shattered as I was horribly underinsured at that time, not of my own design though, but my dad. You know the typical stuff – endowment/money back policies, too large premium, too low Sum Assured. This fear propelled me to go deeper into Life Insurance and it became my new year resolution that I will immediately take proper cover. Then I set about learning as much as I could about Life Insurance. The deeper I went, the more surprised I became at stupidity of people, the sheer audacity of mis-selling agents and the poor (that’s a very mild word) financial literacy all around me. I kept on studying, learning and trying to take charge. Gradually, I went on to financial planning process and things came to such a situation that I prepared a very elaborate excel sheet of my financial planning and sent it to Mr. Kartik Jhaveri , a leading financial planner of Mumbai – Now director of Transcend Consulting, and asked for his opinion. His reply just made me jump with joy. Not only he appreciated and okayed the things, he told me ” The level of maturity and planning you have shown being an amateur, I would strongly advise you to go for CFP certification (Certified Financial Planner), you have a bright future there” which I ultimately did – getting A grades all throughout. The point is, it was fear initially which propelled me to do the things I did ultimately.

    The essence is captured in the single line “without fear there can be no courage”. The only thing is one has to take fear as catalyst and start action, and not just sitting around fretting over the situation. Warrior, and not worrier, you need to be.

  5. sanjeevbhatia says:

    Forgot to add few things 🙁

    1. I am a mechanical engineer and have my own factory, didnot have any specific need for CFP certification, it was just pure interest in financial field that I did this.

    2. I didnot do CFP for any financial gains. It was purely deep interest in financial planning propelled initially by ….. fear.

    3. As I have mentioned many time elsewhere, financial planning process is not rocket science, and all you need is a strong will.

    4. Would like to extend my support to any member of our tribe who wishes to go deeper into financial planning process.

    Just a caveat her, financial planning is NOT just investment planning, it takes into account everything like your risk profile, needs/goals/desires, risk coverage, taxation, cash flow etc. Investment planning is just a small part of overall financial planning, so please don’t confuse it there.

    Thanks

    • Very interesting Mr Bhatia. Your initiative in educating yourself is appreciated. I am sure you would have picked up valuable insights which help you immensely in your business as well.

      • sanjeevbhatia says:

        Thanks Sudhir. The greatest benefit has been the self confidence that is generated when one feels secure that come what may, i am on my way to attain financial nirvana. That alone changes the perspective of looking at things and world in general.

        Hope I am making sense… 😉

        • Yes absolutely. Just that things (business/ economy/ black swan events) are very complex. Nirvana is therefore not a given at all times. You could well be in and out of it.
          The other monster is inflation. What seems good with margin of safety could be mere bread crumbs tomorrow.
          I think it is a process or journey rather than a destination !

    • Manish Sharma says:

      Hi Sanjeev, it is really inspiring to read about your endeavour to educate yourself. Very few people actually take the time and the labour associated with it to go through such process.

      I would like to know from where did you complete your CFP certificate course??

      And yes, your caveat at the end nicely summed it up 🙂 There are many investors, including me 😉 who confuse the Financial Planning with Investment Planning….

      • sanjeevbhatia says:

        Thanks Manish. I put up the details here only to stress that if one has willingness to do something, you will find some way of doing it.

        As I say to my kids: ” If you truly want to do something, there are thousand ways and if not, then there are thousand excuses” :).

        I did my CFP from ICoFP, New Delhi. Now on their list as freelance trainer. Did it in Dec 2008.

        It is very common to confuse Fp with Invest. Planning, so added it in IInd comment. Glad to clear the confusion. 🙂

        Thanks

        • karthik says:

          Sure Bhatia Ji… May be a small post… It will be really Helpful and with permission from Vishal…

    • shankar says:

      Wow…Bhatiaji, even I am also very much interested in CFP for my personal finance and need more information from you. I will get back to you as early as I can…:)

      • sanjeevbhatia says:

        Most welcome Shankar.

        My reason mainly for doing CFP was not earning anything out of it. I thought ” If I can improve mine and my near and dear one’s financial lives a little bit, my purpose will be solved. If I can provide my children the financial education that is missing from ALL the courses in India, they will get a headstart over millions of other kids, and my effort, money & time spent will be justified”.

        That I have manged to recover my fees as a trainer and get some good clients is a bonus. 😉

        Thanks

    • Sanjeev, your story resonates with that of the old, experienced warrior mentioned in the story above! You’ve faced your fear with courage. Great going! This serves a great lesson to a lot many worriers reading this post, including myself. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Excellent article as always. It is so true. Whenever in life this ‘fear’ hits a boy is wise enough to realise it is very likely that he would become a man.
    It is about taking charge of your responsibility rather than waiting for outcomes.

    • Indeed Sudhir! There’s always a fearful kid within each of us, waiting to be a man someday. Life’s just about unleashing this man, while also keeping the kid alive. Thanks for your feedback.

  7. Manish Sharma says:

    “Without fear there is no courage”
    Thanks Vishal for giving me a beautiful thought for life 🙂

  8. R K Chandrashekar says:

    A great piece Vishal. We need not fear failure. In fact we learn a lot from Failure. Failure is a stepping stone to success. Worrier is akin to stress. Some amount of stress is good for health! Just like we need to channelize stress, so also we need to act on our worry to become a great warrior.
    In investment parlance, it means doing your analysis, executing your strategies, sticking to your goals, learning from your mistakes, cutting out all the external noise( Stock market, Business channels, et all!) and have enormous amount of patience to reach your goals. Last but not the least know that Money and Investment is not everything in life!

    • sanjeevbhatia says:

      Great Feedback Mr. Chandrashekhar.

      Very aptly put. If one can channel his worries and fear, the outcome can be marvelous.

      “Last but not the least know that Money and Investment is not everything in life!”

      Awesome. Beautiful. A very sagacious advice indeed.

    • Thanks for those wonderful ideas, Mr. Chandrashekar…especially your point about patience. As they say, “A watched pot never boils.” Regards.

  9. priyaranjan says:

    Golden rule of finance-There is no gain without taking risk,Isn’t it?.I think fear is the risk & every possible precaution we take to get over the fear leads to a gain.

  10. Reni George says:

    Dear Tribesmen
    Its rightly said,Fear is a womb from where courage takes birth,I have fear and that fear has helped me in having courage to do things,which could not have taken place,if i did not have had fear at the first place.
    It was the fear of increasing waistline……Result…Completed some half marathons and daily run of atleast 2kms which started as a few 100Metres ,few years back.
    It was the fear of Paying too much for a company……Result….Learned valuing a company for the business it does,understand the business it does and moreover deciphering a Annual Report,which used to find place in junks papers of my home earlier.Now i have the annual reports of the company where i find value and go over the minute details in each of them.
    It was the fear of debt ………Result……Just a single debt of car loan and that also where i made a down payment of almost 50% and just one more year to clear the pending dues.
    It was the fear of illness wiping out my savings…..Result……Covered myself and my family with ample medical cover.
    Fear about how to save,in the present lifestyle……Result…..First Savings is done,from the monthly cash flow and then expenses for the home are planned.
    Fear and Greed are the two major components,which run the market.

    Thanks and Regards
    Happy Investing
    Reni George

  11. Nice article Vishal…
    Fear can actually act as a Margin of Safety while investing 🙂
    And one should always give due weightage to fear when making assumptions for future.
    Waiting eagerly for the stock talk.

  12. Keval Singh says:

    Dear Vishal,
    Thank you for a well written and thought provoking article. Indeed without a fear in your heart you can never be the warrior who is a victor. Fear known and unknown, always prepare you for the worst while your sights are set firmly on your goals.

    I thank you and other tribesmen in providing valuable comments.

    Regards,
    Keval Singh

  13. Upendra says:

    ..yes. Even, I am both a warrior and a worrier. I think almost all of us would be wearing both these hats in attaining the financial freedom. The questions listed in this article are really applicable for many and answering these by taking required action shall enable us to be financially prudent in achieving our life’s financial goals.

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