“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance,” says Proverbs 1:5. We often incorrectly judge the quality of our decisions solely by the result. However, a wise decision doesn’t guarantee a positive outcome, and a foolish decision doesn’t necessitate a negative one. Somebody has to win the lottery!
Nowhere is this dynamic clearer than in the world of investments. It is tempting to look in the rearview mirror where things are seen so clearly. The best stock picks, and recent market fluctuations seem obvious. We conveniently forget about the bad ideas we avoided and zoom in on the perfect choices we passed on. Speculative decisions prudently avoided can cause regret when we see an investment go to the moon.
Know anyone who set out to prove their stock-picking prowess and ended up regretting it?
When the markets are booming, we may regret being too conservative. When the markets are falling, we may regret being too aggressive. We spend too much time worrying about the perfect allocation and not enough arriving at the wisest one. There is no magic formula to determine the ideal blend of investments in a portfolio. Brilliant (and some not so brilliant) intellectuals, professionals, and prognosticators alike debate the optimal recipe ad nauseam. While fear and greed may clamor for attention, wisdom should be the guiding principle.
We invest similarly in relationships, especially with spouses and children. When our efforts are not reciprocated, we can quickly become embittered. When our parenting, teaching, coaching, and loving engenders less appreciation than we deserve, we wonder whether the effort is in vain. In life, as with financial investments, not every decision or timeframe will feel like a win. Sometimes it feels like we are treading water. Even worse, on rare occasions, it may feel like we are sinking in quicksand. Growth and value can take time to materialize and be recognized.
Andy Stanley says that the most important question anyone can ask prior to making a decision is, “In light of my past experience, my current circumstances, and my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing for me to do?” When advising clients, I try to focus on helping them make wise choices rather than the right ones. The right ones aren’t always obvious, and they aren’t always binary. While we tend to view a decision through the prism of “yes or no,” things aren’t always that simple. There may be wiser options that haven’t even been considered.
I did not doubt that I was making a wise decision (perhaps the wisest decision ever!) when I married my wife. However, I struggled with the question posed to me at a wedding shower of women when asked, “When did you know she was the one?” Maribeth gave a very romantic answer. Ladies, please don’t hate me, but my response was, “I’ll know she is the one when I say I do. I could get run over by a bus today.” I took a lot of heat for that answer, but thankfully, my wife didn’t run. She was a wise choice because she genuinely loved God and others. I had a great conviction that she would always be faithful to me, believed she would be a great mother, and I wanted to grow old with her.
Focus on making wise decisions, which are not always easy, and don’t judge their quality prematurely. Proverbs 13:11 says, “Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers it little by little makes it grow.” It takes time for fruit to ripen and flowers to blossom. Similarly, wise decisions made in succession over a long period of time produce a life and legacy worth celebrating. That pretty well sums up how I hope to help others.