I’m 51 years old. I’m 5′ 11′ and weigh 170 pounds. I have 32-inch waist. I work out six days a week and I eat sparingly and healthfully (most of the time).
“And therefore what?” you ask.
I don’t broach the subject of my age and health to boast, though you could remonstrate that’s exactly what I’m doing (and I would concur). I broach the subject because on those occasions when I’m asked “How do you do it?” I have a ready answer: I place myself in the future.
I possess no exceptional willpower, nor am I endowed with extraordinary metabolism. I am able, though, to vividly picture the future me.
For example, before I eat, I mentally place myself 15 minutes in the future. Most anything eaten is eaten within 15 minutes. After that brief time, the pleasure of the experience is gone, but the effects will linger long afterward. By envisioning myself 15 minutes from the present, the choice of the healthier fare becomes easier to make.
For years, I’ve used a similar technique with similar success when I invest. Instead of envisioning the future in minutes or hours, I envision it in months or years. I place myself and the investment in my mind two, three, or five years down the road.
This might seem obvious to many readers, but the technique is more intricate and more difficult to apply in practice than you may think.
When I speak with investors about placing themselves in the future, I frequently encounter a dismissive wave of the hand. “Of course, I do that. Who doesn’t?” But when I press for particulars, I find many of them aren’t seriously considering the future. They’re simply extrapolating current trends or picturing a carbon copy of today.
So let me offer three tips to help you better grasp the future from an investor’s perspective:
1. Picture the future diametrically opposed to the present. If a stock price is 500% in the past five years, picture it down 500% in five years. If a company’s key product seems impenetrably dominating, picture it as an also-ran. Of course, the real world rarely operates in such stark contrasts, but at least your mind opens to the possibility that tomorrow will differ from today (and it will in some way).
2. Envision a change catalyst. Know that any company with a leading product will attract fierce competition. Leading positions are precarious positions. Know that entrepreneurs are covetous of a competitor’s leading position and they will attempt to move heaven and earth to take market share and trim profits. On the other side of the equation, know that pressure will intensify – possibly from an activist investor – on a lagging company to improve.
3. Place your investment portfolio in the future. What investment portfolio would you hold if you knew tomorrow would be different from today? If Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) or Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) are vulnerable to being knocked off their perch, what would you own instead?
Nothing is permanent in this world – no investment forever dominates. On the other side of the coin, many problems are frequently transient. When you place yourself in the future, and place yourself there in a world different from today, at a minimum you open your mind to new investment possibilities.
This strategy of placing yourself in the future is good for the waistline, but it’s also good for the investment portfolio.
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