I was never fond of history in school. I am, now.
The difference, as I realize, has occurred due to the way the subject was taught to me in school and the way I have come to look at it over the past few years.
What I was taught in school were the details – British Rule, French Revolution, World Wars, etc. – and the rote learning that had to accompany it.
What I now love about the subject is simply the concept of it, how we have come to be since humans first walked the Earth, how our thinking has evolved, and how some things have not changed at all.
About this last point, I believe there are two things that have stood the test of time, and that apply to everything we do in life, investing, work, everywhere –
- We have much less control over the future than we hope, and that it will always surprise us (surprisingly!). We can’t control what would happen to us or our investment portfolios, we can’t control what people around us would say or do, and we can’t even fully control our own bodies, which would get damaged and sick and ultimately die without regard for our preferences. In fact, much of our unhappiness is caused by thinking that we can control things like these that, in fact, we can’t.
- We have far more ability to make an impact than we expect. And this ability is more important than we can imagine. All it requires for us is to be learning and adapting machines, be sensible in our decision making, keep things simple, and trust the role of sincere hard work. Some people are aware of it; most are not. Frankly, it is easier to sit on the sidelines and whine about the stuff we can’t control (like stock prices) than to own up to what we do control (like our process of investing).
In short, while we can’t control the future, we can be courageous enough to jump into life with both feet and take responsibility for how we would like to mold it (without trying to control it), and how we would react to what happens to us on the way.
No success guarantees here, but history proves that’s how the world has always worked.