I don’t need to be good. Just better than you.

Abstention on the part of those who won’t venture
in creates opportunities for those who will.

The quote above comes from Howard Mark‘s The Most Important Thing Illuminated, who was referring to investors who, believing they cannot beat the market, stay away from the investing game. In doing so, these people allow those who think they can (and who do participate in actively trying to beat the market), opportunities to do just that.

It reminded me of a thought I had during my recent annual military service, where I saw a significant number of comrades looking more physically unfit than ever, many of whom were almost as or even more physically fit than me during our active days (about ten years ago). By virtue of simply having more or less maintained my fitness these past years, I was now perceived by them as being much fitter than them.

It was almost as if because they didn’t want to play the fitness game (“Not young; no time” was the common refrain), and I did, I “won” by default, even though I wasn’t naturally the “fittest” to begin with.

By the same token, I’ve known of plenty of really smart people who not quite wanting to play the “career game” (for whatever reason) get stuck in career mediocrity, giving us less naturally talented folks opportunities we wouldn’t have had if not for their leaving the game for us.

The Use of Worry

“Worrying doesn’t get you anywhere.” Or so they say, “they” being the anonymous group of trolls in my head that churns out stuff like that.

But worry does have a use. It urges me to take action. Because of worry, I do things today that I’d ordinarily put off to tomorrow.

I admit, worry makes today (and all preceding time before the event of which I am worried about) potentially nightmarish — the anxiety I feel in the grips of persistent worry isn’t particularly pleasant. But that might be a small price to pay in being as prepared as I can be in anticipation of that worrisome event.

The more I prepare, the less worried I get; till I know that I can prepare no more. That’s when worry ceases to be useful, and itself becomes a cause for concern.