You Invest Against Yourself

by | Dec 29, 2017 | Investor Behavior

My dad used to tell me before my baseball games, “ya know Case, you play baseball against yourself”. I didn’t really get it at first. But the more he said it and explained it to me, the more I understood. You play baseball to the best of your abilities. If you do that, it doesn’t really matter what the outcome of the game is.

Coach Gaines, from Friday Night Lights, says this very well in his speech to the team during halftime of their state championship game.

“To me, being perfect is not about that scoreboard out there. It’s not about winning. It’s about you and your relationship to yourself and your family and your friends. Being perfect is about being able to look your friends in the eye and know that you didn’t let them down, because you told them the truth. And that truth is that you did everything that you could. There wasn’t one more thing that you could’ve done.”.

If I were giving a halftime pep talk or talking to my son about investing for the future I would say.. “successful investing is not about obtaining the most money or having the highest rate of return. Successful investing means having the ability to do the things that bring you happiness. As long as you do everything in your power to work towards those things, you’re a successful investor in my book.”

I like to think about wealth this way:

Wealth = Capacity to fulfill priorities

Priorities = Goals + Values

Most people view wealth in a different way, that’s where the problem is. Google defines wealth as: an abundance of valuable possessions or money; the state of being rich

One of the best explanations I’ve come across for why we think of wealth as something material came from Naval Ravikant on The Knowledge Project podcast.

“Socially, we’re told, “Go work out. Go look good.” That’s a multi-player competitive game. Other people can see if I’m doing a good job or not. We’re told, “Go make money. Go buy a big house.” Again, external multi-player competitive game. When it comes to learn to be happy, train yourself to be happy, completely internal, no external progress, no external validation, 100% you’re competing against yourself, single-player game. We are such social creatures, we’re more like bees or ants, that we’re externally programmed and driven, that we just don’t know how to play and win at these single-player games anymore. We compete purely on multi-player games. The reality is life is a single-player game”

Much of our desire for wealth comes from the need for external validation, which is the “multi-player” concept Naval speaks of. We want to be seen as wealthy by our peers because that signals we’re “winning”. But does this limitless desire for greater wealth actually make us happy?

The idea of accumulating wealth as a way to keep score against others doesn’t make a ton of sense because not everybody is playing the same game as you. You invest against yourself, and that means you get to define the game and make the rules. Do so under your own terms in a way that leads you to happiness.  



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