I never realized how much of my identity was wrapped up in my stuff, my job description or my relationships until it all started changing – if not disappearing outright. I decided to try a new investment strategy.
The other day I heard this quote attributed to the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. He said, “that is real which never changes.” I’ve been hearing and reading things like that a lot lately, but this time it grabbed my attention by the neck and shook it around. It got me thinking about the time and energy I’ve wasted chasing things that go up and down.
- The value of my investments
- The amount of cash in my bank account
- The number and condition of my possessions
- The affection of other people (or any one person in particular)
Taking Lao Tzu at his word, I started looking around for a store of wealth that doesn’t change. Foreign currencies? Collectibles? Precious metals? Nope. I reached back to the beliefs my parents held about the way the world works – or to times I was certain I was in love with “the one.”
Everything I looked at was moving or changing – some faster than others.
Either Lao Tzu was having a laugh at my expense from the 6th century BCE (okay, some scholars argue it was the 5th or 4th century, so even that’s moving) or I was looking in the wrong places. Why would he say “that is real which never changes” unless there really IS something that doesn’t change?
There is, but you can’t get it from a bank, a real estate broker or an online trading account. In fact, there’s no way to acquire it at all, because you’ve always had it. It’s the divine spark you brought with you when you came into this world. It can’t be bought, sold or traded, but it does expand every time you make a deposit through one of these convenient ATMs:
- Stillness. Making room for stillness in your life is one of the most powerful ways to connect with the divine spark. It’s also one of the hardest because you can’t turn off that noisy stream of thoughts. You can turn it down, though. Just being aware of your breath can bring your mind back when it wanders.
- Gratitude. Steve Martin said that it’s hard to sing a sad song when you’re playing the banjo. Andy Andrews said that the seeds of depression cannot take root in a grateful heart. Whichever one flips your switch, it’s the same message. Expressing gratitude honestly and often can change everything around you.
- Hugs. My friends laugh when I call this “vitamin H” but I’m convinced that high quality hugs are as important to our long term well being as food, water and shelter. There’s something primal about our need to be held that bypasses all of our external wiring and goes straight to the heart.
- Beauty. It’s one thing to see beauty in a flower or a seascape or a lover. It’s quite another to welcome it in something ordinary, or even in something that used to annoy you. It will appear wherever you look for it. I once asked a friend what she loved best about her late grandfather. She said, “he taught me beauty.”
- Respect. It still amazes me how much easier it is to get along with people when I let go of my need to be right. It’s a constant battle to keep my ego in check, but when I take myself less seriously, I find that what bugs me most about others is usually… me. Well, the parts of me that I see in them, anyway.
- Acceptance. Almost nothing depletes my reserves faster than resisting what is. The only thing I can really control is where I put my attention. That and how I’m using my imagination in the present moment. Everything else is just set dressing that comes and goes. The less meaning I attach to it, the better.
- Caring. Showing others that you recognize the divine spark in them makes a difference for you, for them and for anyone who observes an act of caring. This can be verified by measuring serotonin production and it doesn’t always take a major sacrifice. Sometimes just a word of encouragement or a moment of real listening is enough for both parties to remember their true worth.
So, in case you’re looking to diversify your portfolio, I’ve just gone public with my top investment picks. These are my personal “buy” recommendations and I’m taking aggressive positions in all of them. Through countless bull and bear markets, I’ve never seen any of these holdings lose their value.
Your results may vary, so evaluate the risk for yourself.
I’m a long way from having this all figured out. Pick any one of these on a given day, and I’m likely blowing it, but as investment tips for living, they’re working better for me than anything else I’ve tried.
Questions: What have you learned from chasing things that didn’t hold their value? What helps you to connect with the real you – the part that doesn’t change?