“Buy low and sell high,” is the age-old maxim of successful investors. But no one knows how to time the market consistently (and watch out for those who say they do). Better to hook up with those who take the long view and know how to live graciously in good times and bad.
Before diving into this week’s Provision, I thought I would mention that we went over the 40,000 subscriber mark in the past week, including 15,603 subscribers on handheld devices and almost 25,000 subscribers by email in 129 countries (we just added Papua New Guinea). Thanks for your continuing support and interest in the exploration of life’s trek. We look forward to serving you faithfully for many years to come.
In the past two weeks, we’ve written about the importance of knowing what we want and how to get there if we want to be healthy, wealthy, and wise. Say we want to lower our risk of cardiovascular disease. First we need to know what this entails. If we don’t know, for example, that trans-fatty acids are a major risk factor then we’re already at a major disadvantage.
But it’s not enough to know the what. How, for example, do we identify the presence of trans-fatty acids in the foods we eat? This past week, the U.S. government took steps to make that easier. By 2006, all nutrition labels on pre-packaged foods are required to list the trans-fatty acid content. But 2006 is a long way off, and we could already have died of cardiovascular disease by that time!
It’s important to learn how to lower our risk of cardiovascular disease right now. That entails learning not only how to identify the presence of trans-fatty acids in the foods we eat, but also how to eliminate them from our diet. When we get used to eating one way, we develop habits and preferences that can be hard to change. Knowing how encompasses the entire gambit of human development.
Or say we want to pay off our mortgage in seven years. Once again we need to know what this entails. If we don’t know, for example, that principal pre-payments leverage the amortization table in our favor then we’re already at a major disadvantage.
But knowing what we need to do is not enough to get the job done. How, for example, do we find the money to make principal pre-payments? Once again, the government has made things easier by lowering interest rates to near record levels. With the appreciation in property values, it may be time to refinance with an Adjustable Rate Mortgage and to eliminate Private Mortgage Insurance in the process.
This too is better done right now, since mortgage rates can’t go much lower and they won’t stay in this range forever. But we also have to learn how to make those principal pre-payments (early and often!) and, perhaps, how to make investments that will supplement our cash flow and produce sufficient capital gains to pay off our mortgage in seven years’ time. Once again, long-standing habits and preferences can be hard to change.
These are two of many examples that illustrate the importance of knowing what and knowing how. But it’s also important to know when. When is it not a good idea, for example, to make principal pre-payments against our mortgage? Consideration has to be given to many factors, including credit card debt, retirement savings plans, and the potential for higher-yielding investment alternatives.
Or when is it not a good idea to eliminate trans-fatty acids in the food we eat? It might be worth tabling this concern, for example, when you go out to celebrate your 25th wedding anniversary. And my uncle, who is about to leave for Europe as he celebrates his 90th birthday, tells me that he no longer pays attention to trans-fatty acids at all!
Timing is everything when it comes to living a healthy, wealthy, and wise life. It’s not that we can always “buy low and sell high,” as some investment advisors are wont to claim. There’s no way to do that! But we can always count on life to time things perfectly for our continued learning, growth, evolution, and development. Once we understand and accept this fact of life, things gets a whole lot easier.
I have a friend who likes to say that my wife and I are the luckiest people she knows. “Everything always works out great for you guys,” she exclaimed recently. She wasn’t being jealous. She was just happy to see the universe at play.
One reason she was happy is because she knows that everything has not always gone our way. We have started ventures that didn’t work out. We have lost our shirts in a real estate deal. We have been robbed on numerous occasions. We have lost jobs that we dearly wanted to keep. We have suffered our share of accidents and illnesses.
In other words, we have lived in the same universe as everyone else! But when bad things happened, we maintained our composure and seized the moment in order to turn things around. In fact, if some of the bad things had never happened we would not be where we are today. They have all moved us forward in life.
Another reason she was happy to see the universe at play, is because she’s learning to play along. Good fortune is not the exclusive purview of a select few individuals. It is imbedded in the nature of life itself. Things work out more often than not, or the evolution of life would have long ago come to a screeching halt.
Whether you believe, as we do, that God has a hand in how things work out, or that life simply works out more often than not of its own accord, recognizing the universe as benevolent makes a huge difference in our way of living. In bad times, we can resist less and relax more • trusting that something important, remarkable, and useful is going on. In good times, we can boast less and enjoy more • trusting that something larger than ourselves is going on.
Learning to play along with this process is the secret of success. More than 2,000 years ago, Archimedes said: “Give me a lever long enough, a fulcrum strong enough, and a place to stand and I can single-handedly move the world.” Those who understand how time works have found that long lever, strong fulcrum, and solid place to stand. No wonder they move the world!
One day I went swimming at the ocean and picked out a hotel where I thought I would turn around. Everything went fine on the way to the hotel, when I was swimming with the current. Turning around, however, I found myself swimming against the current and making very little progress. Eventually, exhausted, I swam to shore and walked back to my towel on the beach.
Perfect timing is not always getting everything right. It’s more like swimming with the current. You still work in order to move forward, but perfect timing enables you to go a lot farther a lot faster with a lot less effort. Perfect timing is also like a martial art, which uses the energy of the opponent to one’s own advantage. You still encounter difficulties, and even enemies at times, but you’re no longer defenseless in the face of danger.
Successful people understand how time works. They take the long view in order to go through the ups and downs of life with gratitude and grace. Anyone can choose to look at life in this way. And from what I can tell, choosing to do so makes all the difference in the world.
Coaching Inquiries: Do you remember a tough time that worked out in the end? What adjustments had to be made? Do you remember a great time that caught you by surprise? How could you master the art of perfect timing?
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.
Your latest LifeTrek Provision prompts this (I joined you at #126). Speaking of Virginia, education, birds, self education, and amazing connections with living your dream, I invite you to look at the organization my husband founded at age 50 and let him help you enjoy your surroundings even more. If you wish, just go to his website and sign up for your own free newsletter:www.windstar.org
A VERY good Provision, Bob. Thank you. Hope you are doing well • and that the book is coming along.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
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