- Wealth PMS
Let’s say a man, call him Ajay, has a heart attack while exercising in the gym. He was doing a deadlift with 60 kgs. 25 kgs as weights and 10 on the bar. This was after he’d finished a small 5 km run, did a round of stretches, some pushups, barbell presses, three sets of single arm rowing with weights, and 20 burpees.
Ajay had of course been doing this a while; it wasn’t his first time in the gym. He ran often, cycled once in a while and when the weather permitted, swam in the building pool. He wasn’t always like this, of course.
From a young age, he’d loved his biryanis, his milkshakes and his paranthas. These made him put on weight – he blamed the meat and the ghee, dammit – and so he had to get his exercise to consume all those calories. He loved his food – who doesn’t – but he always tended to overeat because he loved it. And then, the genetics sucked too, because his parents had a history of heart disease, obesity and high blood pressure. So he’d cut direct sugar where he could, except the chai which now needed only one spoon of sugar, not two. And just one sweet after a late dinner and lunch, versus munching down two scoops of ice cream. It was getting better.
Ajay heads a large division in his company and that division was threatened by AI, which apparently could do most of the work his team did. So he had to fire a bunch of people. And he could get laid off too. The fear in his team members’ eyes when they were called in to his room, with HR sitting next to him, was very difficult to live through. It wasn’t the first time of course – he took on these large assignments, had difficult bosses and team members and would fight his way out through phone calls leading deep into the night.
Every zoom call had someone shouting somewhere, and he was either the one shouting or getting shouted at. What’s a man to do after this? One drink helped. Just before bed. Sometimes two because, uhem, too much shouting. He’d then work, sometimes way too late, because you have to work hard when you want something badly enough. Five hours of sleep was the usual, and he would make it up on weekends. The gym helped bring energy, and he’d do a few catnaps in the office to re-energise.
That’s why he would exercise, to free himself for a few minutes from the madness of life, the stress, the feeling bloated, the slight hangovers, the feeling sleepy, the fear of getting fired, and those little cakes he just had to have a bite of at the office party.
And he did a little too much of the gym, that day, they said, after the attack. They said, because it was fashionable to talk about these things. These gyms, these trainers, they push you to the limit, they said. You shouldn’t exercise like this, it needs to be slow and gradual. A strong, healthy man gets a heart attack just all of a sudden doing deadlifts? Makes no sense at all. We should take away the 25 kg weights. Keep it lighter. Reduce the intensity. Ban more than 30 minutes of gymming. Just don’t allow it.
This is how short term thinking works.
You blame the recent thing, versus something else that’s been building up for years. You blame the last straw that breaks the camel’s back, but it was all the straw that went before it that mattered.
I can’t elaborate about the health aspects. There will be the defenders of the paranthas, and there will be the defenders of the ghee. But there is something we will all agree on, because I put it a certain way: It wasn’t the gym that caused the heart attack.
The short termism allows us to blame the gym. That’s the same kind of thinking that makes us forget the longer term in pretty much everything else. We’ll demand wider roads, and can we get cycles off the road please they go so slowly, and can we stagger school timings because everyone is on the road at the same time. We’ll make marks the be-all and end-all of everything and then crib that graduates don’t have enough real world skills. We’ll talk about pollution because of farmers burning rice stubble, every single year; we’ll say Mumbai gets flooded in July and Chennai in December. We’ll crib about Bangalore roads and traffic. In each of these cases, it wasn’t the now, it was the what-happened-earlier, over years and years.
(Segue into markets coming up, because I’m me)
In markets, you will see bad behaviour that leads to more bad behaviour, all the time. And we’ll ignore it. And then they will correct and we’ll all be like, come on, what were people thinking? Giving a P/E ratio of 80 to Asian Paints? Which grows at 10-15%? Who does that?
Apparently, us. We are doing it. Right now. It’s unhealthy, and many of us know it. And there’s a gym that’s giving energy, in the form of SIPs, Foreign investors and fund managers (like me) that extol the virtues of these very stocks at whatever price. And it’s not just an Asian Paints, it’s a small cap stock, it’s a PSU bank, it’s a what-have-you. These are the sugar bits you should avoid having too much of.
Eventually the market will fall after some IPO. We will blame the IPO. And the Lehman. And something else. And to some extent, we will be right, but it was the fattening up that was the problem, not the last goblet of food you ate.
Markets are hotbeds of desire, greed and fear. They will demonstrate too much of one and then go on to demonstrate too much of the other. The more we start thinking that wait, markets are expensive now, I should take out money, the more we do not realize that:
a) markets may continue to be more irrational on the way up
b) even if the market falls, we’ll keep thinking it’ll fall more and not reinvest on the way down
When you eat too much, you have to exercise or fast or do something else to compromise, and this involves pain. The pain may be sweet – for those of you who exercise and survive leg days, you know what I’m talking about. But it’s pain and discomfort nevertheless, and over time, the exercise and diet eventually let you live. Markets are similar – that there will be times when they eat too much, for too long and then live through periods of discomfort. Those periods are part of the game.
But even blaming a market fall or correction is short-term thinking.
After every correction, markets come back, again and again, after the event. In the longer term, the markets have always managed to come back, and when you make money, it’s not a problem that you invested before the correction. You make money because you invested during the correction, during the recovery and through all that madness. In the longer term, portfolios will survive, even if some stocks die. It’s the short term that excites us because that’s what we want to use to make decisions. If it was only the long term, you’d walk away from this article and just keep your investing going, regularly.
It’s short termism to worry about the short term. Unless you plan to have a heart attack in a gym, but if that happens, you don’t get to take the money with you. Ajay survived, probably because of the exercise, and continues to lift weights today. Stay the course, do the gym.