Measure the Success Of Your Day by the Seeds You Plant
I once read somewhere that you should measure the success of your day by the seeds you plant for a better future. Over time, you keep planting, your life radically changes for the better. I came across a perfect illustration of that concept through a bit of serendipity.
Going through the final piles of paperwork as my home is emptied for the on-going upgrades and renovations, I came across an old brokerage account statement that I had nearly forgotten existed. Sitting in the middle of the empty room on the floor, I was looking over my trade confirmations generated shortly after returning home from college. This particular account had 165 shares of AutoZone with an average purchase price ranging from $79 per share to $93 per share. Back then, I had been buying the stock wherever I could, even taking money out of my writing royalties. I was buying it, along with a company called Direct General and Yankee Candle. They were competing for my dollars. The latter two were bought away from me in private equity takeovers, which worked out really well in the end.
The overall cost basis of those 165 shares was roughly $13,500. Even though we were making around $100,000 a year as college students, that was still very real money. After all, I worked for $5 or $6 an hour in the on-campus computer lab, generating whatever extra cash I could. (I figured, why not get paid to sit in front of a computer working on the projects that are making me money, anyway?)
The last time I checked the stock was trading for roughly $384 per share, though I think it dropped a bit Friday so I’d have to check the closing price. That puts the market value at nearly $63,500 for a gain of almost exactly $50,000. In one small account that had laid dormant for years, there sat a harvest based on past seeds that had been planted long ago. Do it enough times and it really starts to add up to something meaningful.
It isn’t hard to do well in life when you go around planting seeds that are intelligent based on your own personal opportunity cost. Some crops will produce far more than other crops. Some will fail entirely. Some will exceed your wildest expectations and change your life. Your job is to figure out how you want to plant your time and capital to produce whatever harvest you want, financial or otherwise. Your life today reflects the past choices you’ve made and seeds you’ve planted. To create the life you want, start planting now so that the harvests come in in 1, 3, 5, and 10 years from now. The change won’t happen overnight, but it can be drastic as time passes.
Update: I made this short piece available, again, on 05/17/2019 as part of a project restoring access to selected posts in the private archives due to numerous and consistent requests from people who found them useful in their own lives. It was written at a time when the blog was still far more intimate than it can be today with a lot of readers consisting of friends and family. The point of the post was not to discuss AutoZone or any specific stock, which is why I am comfortable making it available, again. Rather, it was to emphasize that the days most responsible for your success include those when you put a seed in the ground even though harvest time seems to get all the glory. If you are living your life, and managing your career, with wisdom, you will do things on days that go totally unnoticed but that years down the line can result in windfalls, showering you with wealth and achievement. As I’ve said, maybe it’s developing your personal skills, going back to college, learning a new language, funding a Roth IRA, whatever. Think about what you want to accomplish, examine your overall risk profile, and spend your life planting seeds! In this case, the example I used, AutoZone shares, closed on the NYSE this afternoon at $984.09 each. That would have meant the original block of stock used as an illustration had a market value of $162,374.85 on a cost basis of roughly $13,500 for a total profit of 1,149%. Aaron and I have long parted with our shares, meaning we didn’t capture all of that gain, but, instead, focused on building our private operating companies and establishing our household which made us much, much more money. It was a better, competing use for our funds. As a result of those allocation decisions in the aggregate, $162,374.85 is a fraction of what I expect our household will generate in income this year. I wrote in a recent post that was a bit more intimate, reflecting on the past twenty-four years of my life, all of these decisions compounded, little bit by little bit, day after day, in a way that turned into something extraordinary. All of it – the equity investments, my copyright income, our letterman jacket sales, special one-off projects where we thought we saw an opportunity, ecommerce platforms we developed for others and on which we charged an override of revenue, it all mattered. It all came together and built what we have. You see this over and over and over again in the lives of successful people; people like Miller Gorrie who funded his operating company with a block of IBM stock or Walt Disney (think about how each of the movies, each of the theme park rides, each of the short cartoons, each of the product sales, all of it worked together to fund and expand the core economic engine). I want you to understand this because I want you to be free and enjoy what a life without financial stress feels like. Go through life planting seeds that can pay off in positive ways for you and your family. Tend your garden with patience and discipline. Amazing things can happen even when there are storms along the way that derail your plans or cause damage. Those storms will come. AutoZone, for example, could have gone bankrupt. A well-designed garden, though, can handle it. There should always be other trees and other shrubs producing flowers and fruits.