Swim Your Own Races
Rely on your own intelligence
There are going to be moments in life when you must make very important decisions. You will find many people ready to offer you advice if you ask for it (and even if you don't), but always remember that the life you lead is yours and nobody else's. It's important to decide for yourself what's important to you and what you want before you turn to others. Because while there will be times when outside advice proves wise, there will be at least as many times when it proves utterly useless. The only way to really evaluate other folks' advice is to first learn everything that you can about whatever challenge you are facing. Once you've done that, in most cases you should be able to make an informed decision on your own anyway.
You were born with the ability to decide what is and what isn't in your best interest. Most of the time, you will make the right decision and take the appropriate actions, and in thinking for yourself, you will become far more successful than had you gone against your own judgment.
Early on in my investment career, I made the mistake of basing a few important business decisions on colleagues' opinions instead of conducting the research necessary to make an informed decision. It wasn't due to laziness on my part; no one could ever accuse me of that. But, being new to Wall Street, I tended to assume that my more senior colleagues knew more than I did, and so I attributed too much significance to their opinions.
You know what happened? Each of those investments ended in failure. Eventually I stopped allowing myself to be influenced by others and began doing the work myself and making my own decisions. It took me until I was almost 30 years old to realize this - it's never too late for a person to change his approach both to business and to life.
People laughing at your ideas? Take heart!
If people around you try to discourage you from taking a certain course of action, or ridicule your ideas, take that as a positive sign. Sure it can be difficult not to run with the herd, but the truth is that most long-term success stories are written by folks who've done exactly that. Let me give you an example.
When I was 32 years old or so, a Wall Street colleague of mine invited me to join a smart and successful group of financial guys who regularly got together to swap ideas over dinner. At the time, I and a partner were in the early years of our hedge fund called the Quantum Fund . It was a big deal to be invited to these dinners, and, I must admit, I was a little nervous. After all, these were the big guys in my field, and most of them had a great deal more experience than I did.
We were sitting in the private room of a fancy midtown Manhattan restaurant when the host asked each guest at the table to recommend an investment. Most of them touted so-called growth stocks . When my turn came, I recommended Lockheed, the aerospace company. Once extremely prosperous , by the 1970s it had fallen on hard times. A fellow sitting opposite me smirked and, making sure that I heard him, stage- whispered , "Who buys stocks like this? Why buy a bankrupt company?"
About six years later, I ran into this schoolyard bully. I resisted the urge to remind him of his condescending remark. It wasn't easy, given that Lockheed Corp. stock had since increased in value a hundredfold, and for all the reasons that I had explained over dinner: The company shed a huge money-losing division and instead concentrated on the exciting new area of electronic warfare systems. Furthermore, as could have been predicted, defense spending had grown rapidly following a period of decline.
As you continue to grow to adulthood, I will continue to offer you guidance. There may be times when I disagree with your choices, but you do not have to accept my advice merely because I am your father. I look at you as independent human beings. Others may say that you are too young to decide for yourself. l say do what you want, as long as you use your own judgment to determine what is right ethically .
But while you need not concern yourself with conventional wisdom and other so-called established notions , you must respect and follow the rules, laws, and ethical practices without which society cannot exist. This is expected of everyone. It is not simply the proper way to live, it's the smart way. Honorable people don't find themselves entangled in legal problems.
You will meet people who will urge you to spend your money freely; they will tell you, "You can't take it with you!" As you get older, you will probably have friends who eat at expensive restaurants every night, buy the latest gadgets or fashion trends, and spend vacations at fancy beach resorts. You must avoid the trap of spending money willy-nilly simply because you can. Not only is this a road to financial ruin, it can cause you to forget what's important in life.
I am not saying that you should never travel or buy anything nice. I am merely suggesting that you should think wisely about whether the thing you are contemplating doing or buying is really worthwhile or whether its benefits will be, at best , fleeting .
Happy, you already have five piggy banks, and you love putting money into them. Please continue to save. Those who save and invest wisely will face fewer financial woes throughout life.