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When Long-Term Thinking is a Terrible Idea

During my evening walk yesterday, I was with a 75-year old gentleman who seemed fitter than I am, walked faster than me, had a wider smile than I can ever manage, and talked much more than I do in a few days.

During the ninety minutes we walked together, we talked about our lives, careers, and investing.

“What do you do for a living, young man?” he asked me.

“I am a blogger and an investor,” I replied.

“What kind of an investor are you?” he asked back.

“Well, a long term investor in the stock market,” I said.

“Long term? Great! Even I have been a long term investor all my life,” he told me. “Long term investing makes a lot of sense.”

“Yeah it does,” I said. “Having a long-term thinking is always good.”

“Well, not always, son!” he replied.

“Why do you say so?” I asked.

“Long-term thinking is definitely a great way to live as an investor, but it’s a terrible way to live a life.”

Now this is something I wasn’t expecting. “But why do you say so?” I asked him.

“If you only think about the long term, about the future, how will you live in the present?”

I personally believe that there’s a great charm in living in the moment, but the way this gentlemen expressed it was something that really led me to wonder.

“It’s a natural inclination,” he continued, “Of course you think about the future, and I’m not suggesting that that’s bad. But boy, there’s a lot to be gained from just being able to be in the moment and able to appreciate what’s going on around you right now, this very second.”

“Yes uncle, that’s true!” I said.

“I’ve more recently gotten better at this and appreciated it,” he continued, “It brings peace. It helps you find your place. It’s calming in a world that is not very peaceful.

“That’s great!” I said.

“But I wish I could have learned this in my thirties instead of my sixties – it would have given me decades more to enjoy life in this world.”

“It’s better late than never!” I told him.”

“Yeah, it’s better late than never,” he replied with a beautiful smile on his face.

The ‘Future’ Myth
Despite being a long term investor and believing that we must plan for our financial future, I’ve come to realize over these years that I’ve missed a great deal in the past only worrying about my future.

So I worried…

  • What if I lose this job and don’t get any other?
  • What if this stock I’ve bought loses me money?
  • 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?

I worried, even when I realized that was talking a huge toll on my health.

But these last five years of my life have taught me a big, big lesson in why I must not worry.

I have realized that 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.

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.

This is also true when it comes to investing – concentrate with all your intelligence, all your enthusiasm, on picking the best investments today and you will be assured of a great investment future.

But then, we human beings are curious creatures. Unlike all other species that we co-exist with, we worry and destruct ourselves over things we don’t have control on and thus can’t change (“I wish I had sold stocks in 2008” or “I wish I had bought stocks in 2009”, for example) while wasting our time, opportunities, resources and potential to do better and create better in the present moment.

We have become extremely competent at avoiding and deflecting. So we avoid behaviours we should change in the now. We avoid learning we should do in the now. We avoid issues we should address in the now. We avoid decisions we should make in the now.

Yes, they’re all things we say we’re going to do one day; some time in the future.

But that’s a future we will never live in.

You and I will never have this day again.

Think about it.

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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.


  1. “You and I will never have this day again.

    Think about it.”

    It really made me think. I’m at my hometown and the 2 sentences above made me understood what I missed worrying.

    Thank you so much Vishal.

  2. Eswar Santhosh says:

    While everybody is careful about printed currency, not all of us value the limited currency of time. While it may seem counter-intuitive, ever since I accepted the fact that every day may be the last day I live, I have started living more. I try to be mindful whenever I can.

    Seneca says “The life we receive is not short, but we make it so, nor do we have any lack of it, but are wasteful of it. Just as great and princely wealth is scattered in a moment when it comes into the hands of a bad owner, while wealth however limited, if it is entrusted to a good guardian, increases by use, so our life is amply long for him who orders it properly.”

    One of my favorite quotes from Meditations by Marcus Aurelius: Since it is possible that thou mayest depart from life this very moment, regulate every act and thought accordingly.

  3. Very timely post, was worrying about future losses ! As my meditation guru says bring the pendulum back to cenre live in present.
    Thanks for the post

  4. Hi vishal
    Is it not interesting that we worry about an asset – money – which can be increased, compounded , borrowed etc and waste the most important asset – time – which is reducing, cannot be bought or increased. at an extreme we don’t even know how much we have of it.
    my comment may sound odd from someone who talks always on money and compounding 🙂 , but one quickly realizes that ‘time’ spent on people and causes we love is far more valuable

  5. You made me recall a wonderful book I read few years ago. Dale Carnegie’s “How to stop worrying and start living”.

  6. Great philosophical insights. If one were to look at it very carefully “Life is just about these three things – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”. On this topic, here’s an article that may be useful to read.

    Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Yesterday is gone. You can’t do anything about it. Today is with you. Use it nicely and judiciously. Tomorrow is yet to come. Plan to use it well and do that for sure when it becomes “today”.

  7. R K Chandrashekar says:

    Dear Vishal
    Your piece set me thinking. Don’t sacrifice the present for the future.As someone said, ” the present is the gift of god, that is why it is a present”. One of my favourite questions when interviewing for a senior manager was: If you are told that you would live only for the next 24 hours, what would you do and whom would you contact. There are no right or wrong answers; but it sets you on a path of thinking that you haven’t done before.
    As far as investment goes, go long term, but live in the NOW!!

  8. Vishal Nicely put ! reminds me of the famous animated movie “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the “present”.

  9. Santhosh says:

    This article has inspired me to read “The power of now” by Eckhart Tolle again. Which I had left out after reading a few chapters some time back. Thanks Vishal for posting this beautiful one.

  10. Paul Joseph says:

    Hey Vishal,

    I really wanted you to check out this book “The power of now” by Eckhart Tolle, it’s almost a legend in spirituality. He explains it like nobody else. Succinct yet profound. He’s got a huge following including Oprah, though that’s not a real criteria to decide that a book is good. Hope you check it out!

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