I recently read a story to my son, which was about a martial arts student who went to an accomplished teacher to seek training under his guidance.
He asked the teacher, “I am devoted to studying your martial system. How long will it take me to master it?”
The teacher casually replied, “Ten years.”
The student was impatient and asked, “But what if I want to master it faster than that? I will work very hard. I will practice every day. How long will it take then?”
The teacher thought for a moment and said, “20 years.”
“Oh, and what if I train with you for ten hours every day, how many years would it take then?”
Now, the student was aghast, and asked, “How could it be? If I am training longer and harder, my training period must be shorter, right?”
The master was calm by this time, and replied, “Son, you are watching your final goal with one eye. How could you go along your journey with one single eye only?”
This story moved me and reminded me of what Charlie Munger said at a Daily Journal annual meeting a few years ago when he was asked to reflect on his journey and share the secret to his long and happy life –
The secret is easy because it’s so simple…
We get these questions a lot from the enterprising young. It’s a very intelligent question: You look at some old guy who is rich and you ask: “How can I become like you, except faster?”
Spend each day trying to be a little wiser than you were when you woke up. Discharge your duties faithfully and well. Step by step you get ahead but not necessarily in fast spurts. But you build discipline by preparing for fast spurts… Slug it out one inch at a time, day by day…at the end of the day…if you live long enough…most people get what they deserve.”
Most, probably all, of our journeys in life are undertaken with an eye on the destination. And we often want to reach there fast. Knowing the destination, or where we are headed, is important because as Lewis Carroll wrote in Alice in Wonderland, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” In other words, if you do not know the destination or the direction, you simply go nowhere. Without direction, without a destination, without a goal, how do you pick a direction, choose a road, or plot a course to get “there”?
But what the above story and Munger’s statements suggest is that we should not lose focus from our journeys in the all-out pursuit of our goals or destinations.
In life, learning, and even wealth creation, there is no shortcut. It’s all a series of good steps and good bets, one after another, for decades. It’s also avoiding the landmines that may kill us on the journeys.
When it comes to investing, specifically, remember that speed (trying to make money fast) does not win. Consistency and discipline (in sticking to a sound investment process over time) do.
You focus on speed when you focus on the outcome or goal, like the impatient student.
You focus on consistency and discipline when you focus on the process or the journey, like the patient master.
Decide who you want to be, for that will decide how soon you will reach your goal.
That’s about it from me for today.
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