When I saw this east-facing sky at sundown, half-lit with the rays of the setting sun, and a half already setting into darkness (see image below), a beautiful thought struck me. How amazing it is to experience in one fleeting moment - one of the most obvious dualities of existence - day and night, or light and darkness. Both, at once.
Generally, we experience either end of the spectrum at a given time - pleasure or pain, light or dark, hot or cold, high or low. And in those moments, we tend to forget that they are transitory, impermanent and that soon, we may experience the exact opposite feeling.
We tend to try and hold on to the comfortable or pleasurable side of all dualities and resist the challenging, painful sides- even pushing them away from our thoughts. And in that state of trying to be in control, we lose a sense of peace, of lightness, of just being. To the point that we can’t even fully embrace the pleasurable moments, as there is always a fear of losing them. Imagine the strangeness of it all. It’s almost like attending a powerful, energetic music concert from your favourite band but trying to view it from your phone’s camera while recording it all- You don’t experience the actual, live magic – instead worry all the time about being able to view these or ‘show off’ these moments later!
What if we allow it to just flow, letting both sides come and go? What if we were ready to just be and watch both sides when they come for what they are? Then, there will be a sense of lightness, a sense of being that's hard to really put into words.
I experience this often and think about this even as I go about my work. Tuning into what I do at DSP Mutual Fund, interacting with all kinds of investors and even my colleagues and peers, I’ve observed how we all become reactive to the truth of the markets - their ‘rise and fall’ duality. This is true not just for newbies, but surprisingly, for seasoned investors, too. In being reactive, and acting from a place of fear or greed, we tend to make emotional choices, often ones that aren’t good for us over the long term. Often missing the forest for the trees.
When we learn to accept this truth - of the duality of existence and of financial markets, from that acceptance will stem wiser choices.
Of course, this is all easier said than done. But isn’t it funny that what’s harder to practice is often what makes life better, if done consistently? Another duality, if you ask me.
Fortunately, the investing world has some tools that can help us escape these psychological barriers.
The simplest and most popular one is the SIP. It literally lets you just watch the rise and fall, and 'just be'- yet, participate and benefit from the ebbs and flows. Only if there was a tool like that to assist us with other aspects of our lives!
Something else that comes to my mind is perhaps a more peaceful way of participating in the investing world- the use of dynamic asset allocation funds (also called balanced advantage funds), that by their nature take care of the greed vs. fear issue of investing. They try to take risks when appropriate, while reducing risks when the need arises- a product category that responds and adjusts itself so that you can invest in ‘peace’. Now, this won’t eliminate risks altogether (no product can), but atleast, it will make your journey smoother, and that too on auto-pilot mode, giving you the mental space to smell the metaphorical roses.
When investment managers talk of volatility, it refers to the extent of this inevitable duality of the rise and fall of the markets. And a wise curation of investing avenues that can reduce the size of those waves will help us in being more consistent, less reactive, and better longer-term investors.
Excuse my slide into a bit of a sales pitch, but I hope these couple of examples helped land my point a bit better.
The way I see it- while you can’t solve for all problems in life, you can certainly become more aware. That our existence, as we know it, whether of life in general, or the investing world - is one of dualities.
And the real lesson is to put yourself in a position to ride these dualities with least resistance, so you can enjoy life with your rose-tinted glasses on.
I’m not a poet myself, so I’ll borrow the legend Jim Morrison's lines to close this post.
'You know the day destroys the night
Night divides the day
Tried to run, tried to hide
Break on through to the other side.'
- Break on Through, The Doors
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