this is a test

Published on May 1, 2020

Character is built in the hard times.

Being able to be considerate to others when everything in your life is going well is a strong accomplishment. Indeed, you have improved yourself -- you have made progress.

In order to build character, though, you need to be capable of being considerate not just in the good times, but also when times are difficult and things are not going your way.

Over the last few weeks, I have noticed how easy it is to let go of existing systems in order to get through the day. It would be incredibly easy for me to give up on writing right now, especially considering so many people are talking about how this is an acceptable time for you to take a break and relax.

I agree that this is a good time to take a break and relax. I have had to take a lot of breaks throughout this time just to get through this crisis (and I will likely have to take many more, too). But, this is not a time to let everything that you’ve worked toward lose its value.

Great investors know that they should not sell everything and cash out their portfolios during a crisis. For one thing, anyone who sells their portfolio in the middle of a crisis will lose the value that was eaten away by the market so far. Second, if you sell your portfolio, there’s no chance of recovery. You will log a loss on your investments, full stop.

Many people sell their stocks anyway, because they see losses and they want to get out before things get worse. This is a rational perspective to have: if you see that you are losing money, you’ll want to do the thing that stops you from losing money. From a long-term perspective, though, this is a bad decision, because markets eventually rebound.

Similarly, during a crisis, you should not cash out on all your routines, or think that the time you have invested in past projects has been unproductive.

I have been tempted many times to just give up. That would be the easy thing to do, right? And that’s precisely why I have not given up: because it is the easy path, I am skeptical of its value.

If I give up on my routines today, where will I be tomorrow? I will likely not notice much, because taking one day off is not a long enough window of time to see how integral my routines are in my life. But next week, where will I be? Will I be able to work as much as I do today? Will I be as happy? Will I feel as proud of my progress?

This is all one big test. Crises push us to our limits. They encourage out-of-the-box thinking.

At times, it can feel like you are being crushed, but there is one thing that you should never do: give up. If you give up in a crisis, think about where you’ll be when it is over. Where will the investor who has already sold his portfolio be in six months?

To be able to keep going in a crisis is a superpower. Being able to say “I finished school while working at home” is a big accomplishment. So is “I was able to keep going to work, and I was so close to hitting my KPIs for the quarter.” So is “I ate healthily almost every day throughout this crisis.”

I keep telling myself that this is all one big test. An opportunity for me to grow.

If you can keep your systems and habits going in a crisis, then it will be even easier for you to maintain them in the good times (which will come, eventually). If you keep your personality and character traits during a crisis, they will become a deeper part of your identity.

It’s all about recognizing that you are being tested. Tests are difficult. They make us feel uncomfortable. They put us under immense stress. But they also allow us to grow -- to move forward.

I keep thinking “where do I want to be in the future after this is over?” and use that as my motivation to keep going. I know that I want my future self to keep going to bed early and journaling and writing. There may be days where I feel like doing none of that, but if I tell myself that my future self wants me to do those things, it will be all the more easier to follo through.

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