The Mayans, Africa & The Stock Market
A few weeks ago I traveled to Cancun with my family for Spring Break. We had great weather and a great time. Most of the time we were at the pool and beach, but we did a few different excursions. One was to Isla Mujeres and another was to Tulum and Xel Ha. Tulum is a location of some Mayan ruins. I wanted to spend more time there, but we were part of a tour that had to stick to a schedule. If I could do it again, I would go to Tulum via rental car or taxi and hire a local tour guide there. There is so much I didn’t learn that I would have liked to.
The Mayan Perspective
As we walked around Tulum I couldn’t help but try to imagine what life was like back then. We got a very basic overview from the bus driver. We know historical facts and basic civilization of the Mayan people, but what about the individual persons? What was their average day like? What did they look forward to? What were their fears and insecurities? Did they act similarly to today’s “investors”? Did they spend their day getting continuous price quotations from their trading partners? My guess is they didn’t. How could they survive without it? After all, we all want to be “informed”, but there was no CNBC back then.
A Perspective from Africa
In early March my family had a wonderful opportunity to attend a special food packing session at Feed My Starving Children with the founder of the charity. As part of the program, he shared a lot of pictures and stories from delivering the food to impoverished children throughout the world. One picture really stuck out at me. It was of a river in Africa (a riverbed) that was completely dry. In the background was a group of adults digging so they could get to the water deep under the river bed. In the foreground of the picture were three girls, probably around 9 years old. They were arm and arm and had the biggest smile on their faces. It wasn’t a “posed” smile; they were genuine. These girls were genuinely happy despite their circumstances. Made me think.
Does the Stock Market Make You Happy?
I don’t think I’ve met anyone that would say the stock market makes them happy. To the contrary, most people I know say it makes them worried, stressed and anxious. Now the principle of investing and achieving goals can bring significant happiness, freedom and independence. And the stock market is certainly a means to achieving financial goals, but as people focus on its short-term results, it has the ability to ruin our mood and influence the quality of our lives.
We tend to become what we surround ourselves with. That’s why successful people say to surround yourself with other successful and optimistic people – attitude is contagious. If you hang around people that are manic-depressive, you are likely to become manic-depressive. The stock market is manic-depressive…at least in the short term. I know a few people whose entire attitude revolves around the stock market. They are millionaires and extremely blessed. And they are miserable to be around. I believe the quality of life of those impoverished girls in Africa is greater than many of the wealthiest people in the world. Sure they may not have all the conveniences and luxuries we have, but they are happy.
Quality of Life is Paramount
Why do you invest? Most likely it is to achieve and maintain a good quality of life. We picture our future selves enjoying travel, family, nature and friendships at retirement. We invest to enhance and ensure a desired quality of life. And yet watching the daily stock market movements has the ability to reduce our current quality of life. So why do it? Studies show that the more often we look, the more often we act. And the more often we act, the worse we do financially. So, let’s do ourselves a favor. As we invest to achieve our desired quality of life, let’s ignore the day to day and month to month movements, and enjoy today. Let’s focus our attention on those things that really matter such as our work, our family and our friendships. Get a well thought out investment plan, let the plan work for you and enjoy the here and now with those things you value most.
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