Immediate gratification is not a Millennial thing, it’s an everyone thing. No one likes to wait, which is why you can pay extra not to. Retailers offer next day shipping, amusement parks offer fast passes to cut the lines and don’t even get me started on instant coffee (if you can call it coffee). We’re a society that wants things yesterday and the 100 million plus and growing Amazon Prime members who, by default, receive their goods in just two days’ time while simultaneously binge-watching their favorite show, is further evidence that the immediacy trend isn’t slowing down any time soon.
Then there are things you can’t speed up no matter what. Rich, poor or otherwise, no amount of premium or technological advantage will get you there any faster. For example, a decadent stock to cook with can take anywhere from 4 to 16 hours of simmering on a stove, a work of art can take an entire lifetime to complete and a baby, well, a baby takes nine months to join us in our world. Warren Buffett touched on this when he famously said, “No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time. You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.” You sure can’t, Mr. Buffett. You sure can’t.
One interesting thing about having kids is how they teach you a thing or two about patience. Not only do they make you wait almost an entire year to get here, but once they do, they test your patience in ways you couldn’t have imagined. They keep you constantly guessing and are straight up savage in their quest to press your buttons, press your buttons and press your buttons some more. They seem to harness, if not weaponize, this particular skill set from infancy into toddlerdom. In fact, while recovering from a stomach bug last week, my daughter asked for her (denied) bedtime milk no less than 200 times. It was simply incredible.
Just like our little ones, the financial markets will test your patience as well. They too will make you question everything you know about how things should work. Unemployment claims could be down and corporate earnings could be up, yet the market might be dramatically selling off because another government official resigned. It’s like your child melting down at a birthday party because it’s time for cake. It makes no sense. It’s cake for crying out loud! Just when you zig, the market like the unpredictable animal it is, zags. And the joke’s on you, mom and dad!
However, learning patience with children can teach us a lot about having patience with investing. Good investors, like good parents, don’t give up after a few rough days, months or even years. They don’t abandon ship and start trading their portfolios when things don’t go as expected. They wait patiently for markets to appreciate. They stick with their strategy and take calculated risks when it’s both appropriate and affordable. They leverage time tested techniques like dollar-cost averaging and financial planning to keep their emotions from spilling over into their investment discipline.
When it comes to certain things in life, typically the great things, there always seems to be the inescapable element of waiting. Unless you give up, you must sit tight while steadily preparing as much as is reasonably possible. When quitting is not an option (and it’s usually not) you have no choice but to wait patiently, believing, if not knowing, that the payoff will be worth it all in the end. Rewards of this caliber are huge, and I don’t mean the political meme “yuge”. I mean full-on cliche your life will never be the same again type huge. These the things that make life worth living, right? So, what’s the rush?
With our second child arriving in just a few short months, I am going to take the glass half full approach with regards to the levels of patience inherently required to care for a newborn and a toddler. I will aim to further embed the inevitable lessons in patience that come from this unparalleled, yet nerve-wracking, experience into my current discipline as a parent, husband, advisor and investor. In the meantime, I am preparing and patiently waiting for her to get here.