Investing Is Everything (JHP Day 5)
Recently I started looking again at some of the best ways I could invest for the future.
Having heard news here and there about a recession, the way that the economy is failing again, and the constant effects of inflation, I’d slowly been gravitating towards the idea of putting some money away into stocks and shares through an index fund, leaving it for 10, even 20 years, and letting the market do it’s thing.
To those that don’t know much about investing, this method is generally considered to be one way of allowing your money to be less affected by inflation, and have it appreciate in value (grow) rather than be worth less, years down the line (which would happen if you leave it in a normal savings account, for example). With the general upward trend of the market, if you leave the money over a massive period of time, it tends to be worth more.
After doing a decent amount of research and toying around with the idea for a year or so, I think I’m finally on the cusp of making that jump. But alongside that journey, I’ve realised there’s a much more important asset that I have available to invest, and one that we all have with us right now.
The Finite Game
Some interesting facts:
- If we’re lucky enough to live to 80, we have about 700,000 hours of time in our lives.
- Humans spend on average about 33 years of their life in bed. That leaves us with about 500,000 hours.
- Around 9 years, or 80,000 hours of that time, will most likely go into work (assuming you work 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, for 40 years).
- All of these hours are fundamentally irreplacable. Sure, you can devote some of that time to health and wellbeing to up the number a bit, but it's not worth much.
I started this post off thinking it would be interesting to delve into finance - how investing your money early on is so important, and the wonders of the compounding effect. But in all honesty, at this point I think it's best viewed as a tool to help you in your other goals, rather than a goal in and of itself.
The real 'chips' that we play with in this game are made of time.
Steven Bartlett explains it very well in 'Happy Sexy Millionaire': the concepts I'll be talking about are derived directly from that book.
The one rule of the game is that you place one chip every hour, and once you do that, you never get it back.
Time is the single biggest factor in our success. It’s all we have. Ego, status, and material wealth are all just a consequence of those chips and how we use them. And regardless of your religious or spiritual views - once the game is over, you don’t get to keep any of it.
You can work longer and harder for money. You can buy groceries, or the latest gadgets, go out with friends and have fun, but time constantly diminishes. And yet we don’t seem to live as though time is all we have - that it’s limited.
People often say that it’s impossible to grasp the concept of infinity - of something that never ends. But in a similar way, understanding finality at this scale is also a challenge. The fact that we, at some point, come to an end as well.
It's a slow realisation, and one that can be uncomfortable for a lot of people. But the point of the realisation isn't to shock or scare. It's to uncover a very real truth, and one that can be transformed into something incredibly empowering.
We live in a culture that denies the reality of death. It happens to other people, not us. And often I think we don’t have the emotional fortitude to embrace it. The idea is in and of itself uncomfortable.
Explaining it through the terms of the game - we know that right now, we all have a certain number of chips left. We're spending them as we speak. In actual fact, we don’t even know how many we have left.
But the entire concept places this immense sense of importance on our choices. On how we spend those chips.
If you had a sand timer pouring away in front of you, and you could see the sand trickling away - if it followed you wherever you went - would you really spend hours scrolling away through social media, people pleasing, trivial issues like what others might think of you, keeping grudges, or being bitter and jealous?
From that perspective, it feels worthless to give even an ounce of thought to any of those things.
People on their deathbeds are able to view life through a retrospective clarity that very few of us can understand. They can see the end in sight, and what really mattered in all the hours they spent. So it puts every decision and hour spent into context. If you could see your own sand timer, you could theoretically do the same - see the irreversible cost of every decision you make.
When I was in my teenage years, I came across this insight somewhat randomly, and it's stuck with me every since. In a similar way, I downloaded a countdown app on my phone - and I set the countdown date to 12pm, on the 7th of January, 2081. My 80th birthday.
To some, it might seem like quite a morbid thing to do. But to me, it was a very real deadline, and one that pushed me to go after things with a newfound sense of focus.
In a world where time feels unlimited, a bad decision or time wasted comes at no fundamental cost. But when the sand timer is in front of you, every choice you make (or don’t make) is a visible sacrifice.
Our sand timers are all there. In front of us. They've always been there, even if we never saw them. They will never pause, stop or reverse.
Which leads to the importance of prioritisation and focus - the ultimate remedy and conclusion, and the way to 'win' the game, so to speak.
How to Win
To be able to live your life to old age, feeling happy and fulfilled about the time you spent, you need to make a subjective analysis of your own values.
After that, all you need to know to do is focus on ambitions and goals that align with them. The things you’re willing to sacrifice everything for. The finish line that’s worth the marathon, and the mountain top that’s worth the climb.
Interrogate the values relentlessly - as if your life depends on it - to ensure the values are intrinsic. Find the source and the reason for them. Why do these things matter to you?
It could be the mastery of a skill, fixing a flaw in society, creating freedom of choice in your life and your children’s lives, being happier and healthier in mind and body, travelling the world and creating wonderful experiences, pleasing your god, pursuing a passion for theatre, being the best parent, educating, inspiring or becoming spiritually enlightened. The choices are endless, and you get to decide.
If you aren’t clear on what you value - the things you don’t will start to enter your life and take over.
A great framework for understanding how to make changes right now, would be asking yourself questions like:
- How would the person that I want to become spend their time?
- Which decision would the person I want to become make right now?
Do whatever you can to place as many chips as you can on furthering these values.
One thing to mention from the get-go: you can’t achieve perfection. You will undoubtedly waste time. But place each chip with intention, as best you can, and repeat that everyday.
It’s easy to say yes to things we think we want to do or think we should do. But when there's a finite budget, we need to be as frugal with our time as we are with our money. Do things that hold long term value for you - and don't look back.
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