#4 Life And Investing Lessons To Learn From A Fish In An Aquarium
An aquarium has always fascinated me since childhood. Whenever I look at it, I think of 2 worlds or two frame of references seperated by glass walls.
On one side are the inhabitants of the aquarium (fish) while on the other side is an observer (a human) like me.
The fish make me wonder if they know about a large river or an ocean in the outside world.
Do they have an inherent desire to be free from the glass walls of the fish tank?
Do they crave for an adventure outside the little glass box Or
Are they just bothered about the next round of packaged food served by their keeper?
Have they become used to a secured, laid back environment where the resources are available without having to worry?
I wonder if their emotions inside the fish tank are insignificant from my frame of reference as an observer.
After all, a lot may be going for the fish inside the aquarium whereas for the observer it may appear as a regular buzz, a haphazard movement of my aquatic friends in the aquarium.
I may not have the answers to what they think but thinking of these questions gives an insight in the lives of humans.
Life of a fish in an aquarium can provide valuable life and investing lessons that we can learn from. Let us jump right in and see what we can learn from them.
In the fourth lesson I have shared an image which provides me a strange motivation in times of uncertainty, adversity and helps me keep my ego in check. So do read right until the end.
1. Stop Thinking That There Are No Opportunities & Be Inquisitive
Just as a fish is trapped in the fish tank, swimming in a small man made pool of water, unaware of the vast ocean in the outside world; We humans cage ourselves in our own mind.
Although life throws opportunities to pursue our dreams everyday but most of us are not even seeking opportunities. Our own minds have limited our potential.
We long for financial freedom to pursue our passion but do not make enough effort to look for opportunities. We crib, we cry and treat ourselves like victims.
Despite being unhappy with our present circumstances just like the fish in the aquarium, we continue to drag along.
Below example from my life perfectly explains how you can end up missing opportunities if you are not seeking them.
My Example: Unaware Of The Opportunity Presented By The 2007-08 Financial Crisis
In the year 2007, I landed a job with Infosys Technologies Ltd as a software engineer. A few months in to the job I realized that I was in a field where I had no interest.
But I had to pay my bills. Therefore I could not just quit and sit at home. I had to study programming languages, learn about operating systems, routers and switches.
Despite being unhappy, I was not seeking ways to become rich. In fact some of my colleagues discussed stocks sometimes but I had no interest in them.
While I was busy learning about technical stuff, I was oblivious to the fact that a majority of the lenders in US were filing for bankruptcy.
I was totally unaware of the great subprime mortgage crisis erupting in the United States of America.
By around October 2007, S&P had peaked and the great recession sneaked in to everyone’s life.
When all this drama was unfolding I had no knowledge of the fact that life was presenting me the biggest opportunity to buy quality companies on sale.
Today after acquiring 7 years of experience and knowledge in the field of investing since 2013, I do regret the lack of this awareness back in 2007.
Do You know? The stock of Eicher Motors went from 200 Rs a share in Nov, 08 to 32,000 Rs in 2017. Like wise, stock of Page Industries surged from 300 Rs in Oct, 08 to 34,000 levels by Aug 18.
A mere 25000 Rs, invested in Eicher Motors in Nov, 08 would have become a massive 40 lakh (approximately) by 2017.
Lesson To Be Learnt
Therefore if you want something you can’t wait for things to happen. In fact they are already happening. You just need to wake up. Open your eyes and be inquisitive.
In fact after learning from my past mistake of 2007, I now look forward to a similar buying opportunity in the future.
After all we are in a 11 year old bull market and the biggest stock market crash may be lurking around the corner. I am not trying to scare you.
The biggest stock market crash also presents us with the opportunity of a lifetime. As the market falls you should be ready to unload your cash and start investing.
But in order to do this you should start searching for good companies from today. Keep an eye on your prey and wait for the right time to pounce on it. Until then keep learning.
In my previous blog post on finding multibagger stocks, I had stressed on the importance of being inquisitive on discovering a new brand.
Who knows you may spot your next Coca – Cola, Jockey or Royal Enfield by being a bit more observant. So do remember this life and investing lesson and be open to opportunities.
2. Don't Chose A Secured, Laid Back Lifestyle. Enhance Your Investing Skills Along With Your Job
A fish in an aquarium is well protected from any threat of being eaten by a bigger fish. It is always in the safe zone, secure and protected.
It has beautiful glass walls for shelter and packaged fish food to eat everyday. All in all a good cozy place to spend your life if you are content with the caged walls.
But then if someday the same fish is suddenly shifted to a big river, it will struggle to survive.
Why? Because it lacks the skills required to sustain in such a large body of water.
Several attempts to integrate Keiko in the wild failed as it lacked the requisite skill set and had become used to human contact. Eventually Keiko died of pneumonia in 2002.
From a human point of view, an important lesson can be learnt here. If you become too complacent with being in your comfort zone, your skills are going to deteriorate for sure.
From a financial point of view, one should never seek comfort in only living paycheck to paycheck. Instead an effort must also be made to acquire new skills that can provide additional revenue streams.
Remember just when you have become used to a routine, life can throw a googly. Below article serves as a good example.
Indian IT Companies Looking For A Different Skill Set
I recently read an article in Economic Times titled, “Indian IT employees stare at a mid-life crisis“.
The article in essence highlighted that with the advent of big data, data analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing etc; IT companies are actively looking for candidates with skill set in these areas.
Whereas manual testing and several other technological support functions are getting automated and those working in these areas may lose their jobs.
The article states that as many as 2,00,000 employees may be at the risk of losing their jobs.
So if you have preferred to work in a place with laid back work culture and did not learn anything new then time may be approaching for you to sit up and take notice.
Especially if you have taken a home loan, you need to start developing your skill set on an urgent basis, keeping in mind the future technological advances.
Lesson To Be Learnt
Abandon your comfort zone right away, spend time learning new skills even if it means waking up at 4 in the morning.
Let me quote an incident from my life where I made a choice to abandon my comfort zone and stop living paycheck to paycheck.
After working for 6 years in IT and airlines industry, I was getting fed up working for others. The desire to find a way that gives you financial freedom was boiling inside me.
It was this desire that led me to buy this book called, “Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki.
In chapter 5 of the book “The Rich Invent Money”, Robert mentioned that a majority of his money was in the stock market and in apartment houses. This one sentence was like a ray of hope for me.
I weighed my options and decided that I could try my hand at stock market investing as it does not require huge sum of capital like real estate and is much more liquid.
In addition, I did not have to leave my job to begin investing. All I needed to do was develop the skills needed for investing in stock market.
Since then I have been reading voraciously. I have spent last 7 years learning financial statement analysis, technical analysis to behavioral finance.
All in all I kept developing my investing skills and the effort has paid off, as by the grace of God, I have been my own boss since 2013.
This concludes our life and investing lesson number two.
On a side note I thought of sharing names of some books I read since 2013.
A Few Books I Read
In order to enhance my investing skills I have read quite a few books since 2013. A few books that I would suggest you to read are:
a) Common Stocks And Uncommon Profits (by Philip A. Fisher)
b) The Thoughtful Investor (by Basant Maheshwari)
c) Armchair Investing: Making Money In Stocks – Simplified (by Aditya Shroff)
d) Buffet The Making Of An American Capitalist (by Roger Lowenstein)
e) Happionaire’s Cash The Crash (by Yogesh Chhabria)
f) Romancing The Balance Sheet (by Anil Lamba)
g) Introduction To Technical Analysis (by Martin Pring)
h) Screw It Let’s Do It (by Richard Branson)
i) Stay hungry Stay Foolish (by Rashmi Bansal)
3. Don't Let Someone Else Control Your Resources. Invest To Be Financially Independent
A fish is entirely dependent on its keeper for the quality of its environment in the aquarium.
Be it the quality of water, food or air, the fish does not have a say in how it is kept.
The keeper of a fish tank decides the brand of packaged food, the quantity of food and the timing of it.
Likewise, I realized in 2013, that no matter how hard I worked, I will always be dependent on my employer for an appraisal.
Even during an year of bumper profits an employee is only entitled to a minuscule portion of the profits.
For example, if a firm makes 6000 crores of annual profit, the % of annual salary raise I would get as a beginner would be a few thousand rupees or a few lakh rupees as a mid level employee.
On the other hand if you are an investor or the founder of the same company you get to keep a good percentage of the profits.
As an investor when the company reports a solid profit you get rewarded by the stock price appreciation and also through dividends shared by the company.
As a founder, you may withdraw a hefty chunk of profits as salary (as per the prescribed norms), get a big chunk of the dividends and see a surge in your networth due to stock price appreciation.
A recent case in point is the appreciation in stock of Avenue Supermart whose owner Radhakishan Damani has emerged as the second richest man in India. He now has a networth of 17.8 billion $.
Lesson To Be Learnt
Ever since I realized the importance of being in control of my finances, I have spent time reading and learning more about investing.
Investing in stock market is a powerful way of being in control of your own wealth.
As an investor you get rewarded based on the size of your bet and the quality of the company you decide to invest in.
You don’t have to be solely dependent on your salary hikes or worry about your rating in annual appraisal for planning for your family’s well being.
A good investment in stock market can take care of your family needs. You see investing gives you the vantage point. You are no longer dependent on others for your needs.
I recently posted an article on using emotions to your advantage in stock market. In this article, I have shared an example from my life where I held on to my investment all the way from 150 Rs to 2590 Rs a share.
A few such multibagger stocks have the power to change our life.
4. Emotional Drama In Your Little World Is Insignificant In The Grand Scheme Of Things - Rise Above It
Some fish in an aquarium can be quite aggressive and territorial. They can scare other fish and even attack them.
From the point of view of the fish in an aquarium, it is a matter of survival and a cocktail of emotions like fear and greed.
But the same territorial war and the emotional drama seen by a human observer outside the aquarium seems just like a little buzz in the fish tank.
The inhabitants are so engaged in their glass box that they remain totally unaware of the bigger things happening outside the fish tank.
We as humans also tend to behave in the same way. Our little aquarium comprises our home, family, office, relationships etc. We get so engrossed in our little world that we forget to see the big picture. Our small world blocks our vision.
Just look at the picture below. From the reference point of an observer viewing the Milky way, your life, your emotions and your circumstances on EARTH seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
I know it sounds philosophical but honestly this picture has often helped me bear adversities better. Somehow this perspective has also provided me the courage to take risks, to do things that I wouldn’t have done in a normal frame of mind.
May be because it reminds me that most things in our lives are anyways beyond our control. So why not take some chances? Why not live a life full of adventure?
I may not be able to control the outcome but can work on what is in my control.
It reminds me of how insignificant are our joys and sorrows on a tiny planet, tucked away in the far corners of Milky way galaxy. So then why fret over small things?
Therefore embrace uncertainty, be willing to take calculated risks and stop being overly bothered by the emotional drama. Find your passion and pursue it.
Let me quote a real life incident from my life.
Emotionally Drained, Financially Strained
I spent most of 2012 and 2013 in emotional and financial turmoil. I was fed up of working for someone else.
In fact there were days where on the way to my office I would just halt at a junction near a mosque in Dubai, and think about quitting my job and flying back to India.
Sometimes I would start walking back home instead of going to my office.
My mind was split as I had a family to support. How could I leave my job? There were weekends which I spent lying on my couch not knowing what to do.
In the midst of all this turmoil, I happened to find a book written by Sir Richard Branson, titled “Screw It. Let’s Do it”. The book was filled with his adventures and risk taking stories. It provided me enough inspiration to take some risks and I did.
This may sound unrealistic but two books; “Rich Dad Poor Dad” provided me an insight in to assets like stocks while “Screw It. Let’s Do It” gave me the inspiration to take risks.
Before investing large sums in the stock market, I tried my hand with a short term trade with a small amount of capital.
I invested in stock of La opala RG on 17th Jan, 2013 and made my first 50000 Rs as profit in a short term trade (17th Jan, 2013 to 5 Feb, 2013). This gave me the assurance that money could be made in the stock market.
Eventually, I decided to take the risk and quit my job in July 2013. I decided to give myself six months of time to see if I can survive and make money through stocks.
After quitting my job I soon realized how tough it was to earn a regular income from stock market.
As I was unable to make money consistently I applied for a job opening in Etihad airways for the position of a demand analyst.
After my interview, I was instead offered a position of an inventory controller (a lesser paying designation). I had to eventually decline the offer and I thank Etihad for not offering me the position i wanted.
Luckily, from October 2013, small cap index started to rise significantly and my investments in fundamentally strong companies surged along with the index.
Lesson To Be Learnt
What we an see from the above experience is that you have to embrace uncertainty if you want to be successful at something.
You have to overcome your emotional baggage and see beyond the depressed mindset to take a leap forward.
I never knew that I will be able to survive without a job, without a fixed salary for 7 years since 2013. For me this outcome was an unknown in 2013.
The image of the Milky way galaxy depicting our insignificance in the universe, the two books I read provided me the courage to quit my job. Yes i was nervous, a bit shaken, a bit confused.
But my fear, my anguish, my emotional turmoil were all insignificant on a tiny blue dot in space. Eventually, we are all going to Die. Then why waste out time on negative things.
Let us do things that matter to us. Let us fear less and take more risks. As a wise man said, “Everything You Have Ever Wanted Is On The Other Side Of Fear”. So go for it.
Life of a Fish in an aquarium does provide valuable insights. We discussed the following 4 life and investing lessons that we can learn:
1. Stop thinking there are no opportunities in this world and be inquisitive. As an inquisitive mind has a better chance of catching opportunities.
2. Get out of your comfort zone. Stop seeking security all the time. If you don’t sharpen your skills, you may perish
3. Don’t let anyone else control your resources. From a financial point of view do something that makes you less dependent on your salary or your employer for your future requirements
4. Your emotions are insignificant in the vastness of the universe. So rise above them and take calculated risks. Overcome your fear and live your passion. After all we are all going to die one day. What more worse can happen.
I hope you like this article. Next time life gives you a hard time put that image of the milky way galaxy on your wall and ask yourself if being too worried about the problem really matters on a tiny blue dot in space.
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