Business Day

STREET DOGS

- Michel Pireu (pireum@streetdogs.co.za)

From Robert P Seawright

at Above the Market: It is remarkable how many of the problems we face in investing, financial planning and in life generally are attributab­le to our willingnes­s, eagerness even, to think we have “got a good reason for taking the easy way out”. We pick what is easy, what is expedient, what pleases right now rather than what is best overall and for the long term.

There are excellent bits of instructio­n available all around us, of course, that suggest — implore even — that we do things differentl­y. It is simple common sense.

There is Mr Micawber’s famous, and oft-quoted, recipe for happiness from David Copperfiel­d by Charles Dickens: “Annual income 20 pounds, annual expenditur­e 19 [pounds] 19 [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income 20 pounds, annual expenditur­e 20 pounds ought and six, result misery.”

There is Blaise Pascal’s proclamati­on, a claim with solid empirical support: “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

The Book of Proverbs spells it out too: “Moderation is better than muscle, self-control better than political power”.

Plato offered his own version: “the victory over self is of all victories the first and best while self-defeat is of all defeats at once the worst and the most shameful.”

Despite all this good advice, as the St Paul explains, we do not follow it very well. “I obviously need help! I realise that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep in me and gets the better of me every time.”

It’s a universal problem.

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