What is the difference between focusing on wealth creation and pursuing it single mindedly? Is it the difference between having a life and missing out? Is it the difference between success and failure?
Here are the definitions: Single Minded: Steadfast. Resolute. Having one overriding purpose or goal. Determined. Focus: to cause to be concentrated on. A central point, as of attraction, attention or activity.
To me, focus is short term concentration on that central point. Although you might continually come back to that same focus, you allow other distractions to occur. Single minded pursuit implies long term dedication – inching toward a goal, ignoring all other distractions.
The old single minded squirrel.
We have a large living room window that looks out on an acre of trees and lawn. At that window, under the eaves, I hung a bird feeder. I love watching the birds and our sofa directly faces this window, so it was the perfect place to hang the feeder.
All kinds of birds found that feeder the first winter we had it – male and female cardinals, little tiny chick-a-dees, woodpeckers, robins and more. It was a pleasure to watch them come to feast at ‘Marie’s bird cafe’!
The second year, the squirrels noticed the seed on the ground, seed the messy birds had flung from the feeder in pursuit of their favorite varieties. The squirrels enjoyed those leftovers and were also fun to watch.
The third year, one large, gray haired busy tailed elder came. He was a smart one. After eating from the ground, this oldster happened to look up and saw that the birds were eating at the feeder. He came back day after day to study the situation, for weeks on end.
As I watched one week, he got up on the brick ledge in front of the bottom of our window turned this way and that way. He craned his neck to look up at the feeder, then he studied the brickwork going up the wall.
That feeder wasn’t convenient for a squirrel to get at (intentionally so!). There were no trees or structures close by that allowed that elder squirrel to climb up and jump onto the feeder.
Day after day, that old guy came back. One day he tried to scurry up the brick work going up the wall. He fell off. Another day he tried to go up the gutter, and came sliding down.
The next week he climbed up on the roof, hung his old gray body over the side of the eave and tried to climb down the string from which the feeder hung. It swung so violently as he tried to slide down it onto the feeder roof that he fell!
Week after week, day after day, I laughed at the antics of that squirrel. He had a single-minded pursuit of getting to that feeder and the lush prize full of winter food it contained!
Did he succeed? YES. After weeks of trying, old Mr. squirrel learned just how to climb down that string from the overhanging roof. He slid down face first, with both back feet gripping the V-shaped string, and stretched his large body down over the feeder roof to eat the seed at the bottom.
It was hilarious to watch him study the problem and pursue it by trying out different things. He entertained me so much that I left the feeder up and added seed to it for weeks for him to enjoy. Later, however we had to take it down, that squirrel’s single minded pursuit of our bird food got annoying!
Single minded pursuit of a goal is an outstanding quality to have if that goal is the only thing you are after. That squirrel knew what he wanted and went after it single mindedly.
Did the old codger miss out on other parts of his squirrel life? Who knows – maybe – grey squirrels typically only live 3 -4 years. That squirrel certainly missed out on passing his knowledge to his offspring. No other squirrel has been able to get at the seed (yet anyway).
Warren Buffett has a single minded pursuit of wealth.
Warren Buffett, in his biography (The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder), is described as having that same single-minded pursuit – of wealth.
He set a goal of accumulating wealth and worked towards it, ignoring anything that got in the way of achieving it. He routinely ignored many things in his life that could have distracted him – leaving them to others or just plain leaving them behind.
Of course, he did so intelligently – working his way to wealth step by step, gaining knowledge and confidence with each step.
One of those steps was pursuing a job with his investing hero, Benjamin Graham. He prepared by reading everything he could lay his hands on about his hero. He attended lectures given by him and studied up on Grahams investment strategy and actual investments made. After much lobbying, Buffett landed a job interview with Graham. They hit if off and the interview was successful, but Graham wouldn’t hire Buffett. Graham only hired Jewish employees.
Eventually, after much persistence, Warren convinced Graham to hire him. Warren excelled in the job, but refused to take over the firm years later when Graham retired. It didn’t fit with the goal he was aiming towards, single mindedly.
He pursued (and pursues) investment opportunities by learning as much as he can about the company, the people running them, the industry and the numbers.
His single minded pursuit of wealth led him to be a millionaire in his early thirties, before the age he had set as his goal. His single minded pursuit of wealth allowed him to form multiple investment partnerships and build wealth by managing the investment money put into the partnerships.
Warren Buffett has a deep capacity for single mindedly pursuing wealth. He has been successful in his pursuit of his goal of building wealth. Very few other goals have interfered with his pursuit of wealth.
He did not train his children about wealth creation or initiate them into his business affairs. He did not network or join high society. He did not participate in his wife’s interests. He did little to build a family long term wealth legacy. In fact, he plans on giving away the wealth he has built. Has he enjoyed his life? Only he can answer that. Will his descendants have the ability or the desire to be wealthy? Probably not, but only time will tell.
Do you want to pursue wealth single mindedly?
I’m not sure I have (or want) that level of single minded pursuit.
I pursued financial independence over the last 40 years, yet other life goals also existed. Things such as raising my children, keeping the house, cooking the meals, exercising and enjoying vacations were also important.
Yes, I had a long term focus on saving, investing and growing my net worth, but I also had and pursued other ambitions and goals.
How about you? Do you know someone who is so single minded about one thing that they ignore most other aspects of their life? Is it working out for them and the people around them?
Note: I’m still reading Buffett’s biography – so far it has been very interesting reading!