"Thus what we gain is Something, yet it is by virtue of Nothing that this can be put to use." ~ Lau Tzu
I recently went kayaking for the first time with a friend. As with many new experiences, the most challenging part was the beginning.
After putting my kayak in the water, I asked my friend, "How do I get into the kayak without tipping over?" He said, "Keep one foot on the dock, put the other foot in the kayak, and sit down."
Simple enough, right? I should have asked what to do after I was in the kayak because, once I sat down, it was wobbling uncontrollably back and forth. By this time, my friend was well on his way, paddling farther and farther away from the launching dock.
Within a few seconds I realized my entire body was tense and I was trying to achieve balance through control. Although the water was calm, the wobbling got worse. Every time I tried to counter-balance a wobble to one side, it wobbled to the other.
What would I do? Fortunately my life experience out of the water gave me the response for what to do in the water -- do nothing. I immediately relaxed my entire body. The wobbling stopped.
Because of my misguided human desire to do something, nothing was accomplished. But when I did nothing, something was accomplished!
"Only in quiet waters things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world." ~ Hans Margolius
On the Monday following my kayak trip, the stock market opened to a fast and furious decline, marked by a 1,100-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
What would I do? And more importantly, what do I tell my clients to do, the people who have entrusted me to manage their life savings? The answer, as with the kayaking experience a few days prior, and in every extreme downturn in the stock market I've seen over the past 20 years, is simple: Do nothing.
In a few isolated cases, especially for my clients with at least 10 years to go to retirement, I bought more shares of stock mutual funds or ETFs, even as the market was dropping at a historic rate. But for the majority of clients, my advice was to do nothing. In both cases, our actions were near opposite of what they may have heard in the media.
As I type this, stock prices have returned to levels prior to the open on Monday.
"What is important in life is life, and not the result of life." ~ Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
And on a final note with regard to doing nothing, you may have noticed I have posted nothing here at The Financial Philosopher for a few months.
A partial explanation is that I'm still working on my book, which I may now push to 2016 for publication. I'd love to have it finished sooner but I am more confident than ever that it will be something special and something that can help many people in their quest for mastery of life.
More importantly, I've enjoyed a full summer of spending time with my beloved and beautiful wife and sons.
And, as you may have guessed, the greatest moments we shared together were the times when we were doing nothing...
Related Post: What Is the Price of Pursuing Happiness?
The top image was taken from my kayak (on loan from my friend) while approaching Pinckney Island, which is near my home of Hilton Head Island.
For more images of my kayaking trip, please visit my Facebook page and connect with me there while you're at it (Yes there are some worthwhile things to see and read on social media)!