Relationships: How Big a Share of Your Investment Portfolio?
A friend recently posted some words on Facebook which Steve Jobs reportedly said shortly before he passed away. He mentioned how he had become accustomed to wealth, and how if he had it to do over again, he would have spent more time on relationships.
I’m not sure whether these comments were really made by Jobs, and I have not checked the facts. My point in sharing them here is not related to Steve Jobs per se, but any and all of us.
It’s human nature to tend to take things such as relationships for granted, and to underinvest into their care and maintenance. This pitfall affects all sorts of people, but especially those on a fast track to success and wealth. Wiser people will realize they are letting important relationships slip, and do something about it while there’s still time. Others may only wake up to this problem when it’s too late.
I am not referring to “guanxi”, or business and professional relationships which we cultivate in order to seek some benefit; but rather to those which revolve primarily around family and friendship.
The high-speed, hectic clutter of life and work today have taken a harsh toll on relationships. We spend much more time on mobile device-based than face to face communications. Relationships have become an endangered species, but unlike a rare animal in a remote jungle, relationships are right here and now. Each and every day. Despite that, we allow ourselves to get distracted, and to postpone efforts to foster and improve relationships. The most convenient excuse is also somewhat true: “Hey, I’m so busy lately.” Day after day, we get into the habit of being too busy to invest the time and effort which are required to nurture relationships.
Usually, we don’t stop to think what the long-term implications of this behavior are. That’s not very sensible.
As time flies by, there is a risk that we’ll wake up one day counting the fruits of our labor, but regretting that we didn’t strike a better balance between work and relationships.
I used to think that Alzheimer’s disease was perhaps the worst case among illnesses one could contract. The mind and memory progressively decline while the body remains fit, and there is as of yet no proven treatment or cure. The reasons why some people contract the disease and others do not remain largely a mystery. Before long, the sufferer doesn’t recognize their loved ones.
In other words, people suffering from Alzheimer’s have apparently not made unhealthy lifestyle choices which contributed to their getting this crippling disease. They end up alone because their mind loses the ability to know their loved ones. It’s just bad luck.
By comparison, people who chronically neglect relationships may also end up alone, because their forgotten friends and family may eventually give up on them. The difference lies in the choices they make along the way. This is a largely a preventable outcome.
As a now retired banker friend used to say: “You want to be the richest man in the graveyard? For what?” He has a point, of course. An obsession with money rarely results in a happy ending.
It’s easy to make excuses for why we didn’t regularly put time and effort into reaching out to family, friends, or people less fortunate than ourselves. Human relationships are precious assets, as well as responsibilities. They need attention and nurture, lest we forget.
And we, being only human, need reminders.
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