What will not change?

“Everything material is changing all the time and is temporary, so for lasting happiness, we should change our focus from what is temporary to what is eternal” said our broker friend Jigneshbhai as we met for our weekend coffee yesterday.

Swami and I were stumped seeing him in such a philosophical, almost spiritual mood, specially coming from someone from the world of investing. He went on to explain that he had returned from a spiritual retreat where his teacher had made such a statement, and he was reading from his notes from that retreat.

“Of course everything is changing” said Swami, but it didn’t look like he was on the same plane of ‘consciousness’ (isn’t that the word used by spiritual leaders?) as our broker friend seemed to be.

The difference in their ‘planes of consciousness’ was evident as Swami continued.

“A few months back everyone was saying NDA is out, and now everyone is saying Modi will be back. Last year they said don’t go near small caps and midcaps, and now they are saying the next bull market rally will be led by them. The ‘Mahagathbandhan’ seemed like the in-thing then, and now it seems to have changed.”

This probably brought Jigneshbhai back to the ‘mundane plane of consciousness’ as he looked up from his spiritual notes on hearing Swami, and smiled.

“My investments are changing everyday based on all these material changes, so how can I not focus on them?” revolted Swami, having got Jigneshbhai’s attention.

There was a slight silence as usual while Swami and I waited for our broker friend to speak.

“Well – even in investments, it is better to focus not on the temporary but on the eternal – not exactly eternal, but at least things that are a bit more permanent” Jigneshbhai started explaining, though it wasn’t quite still at our ‘plane of consciousness’.

Looking at our blank faces, he rightly thought this needed more explanation.

“Who is in power is temporary, what people feel about markets keeps changing, political alignments are temporary and so are changes in people’s tastes and moods, and hence prices of businesses. Better not to focus on the temporary but on the permanent.” our broker friend continued, now talking things that made some sense.

“But what is permanent?” Swami was ready with his question.

After a silent pause, Jigneshbhai said, “Well, 10 years from now, young Indians will still aspire for a better life. That won’t change. There will still be Indian businessmen who will identify markets and build profitable businesses – for India and the world. That won’t change. And these entrepreneurs and their shareholders won’t settle for bank interest rate kind of returns. That also won’t change.”

He looked at us and saw that Swami and I had started getting what he was saying.

“So, while not quite permanent – even that is temporary – but irrespective of who is in power or what happens across the border or in the world, these probably won’t change.”

Jigneshbhai said with a deep sense of confidence and faith. The need for human progress is built-in, Swami and I thought. That need is unlikely to change, and human enterprise for progress more or less guarantees a set of new and old profitable businesses being built over time.

Even though they may be temporary at our broker friend’s new found ‘higher plane of consciousness’, Swami and I thought, looking at each other, that they will work at our plane.

As we were further musing on the temporary and permanent (nah – eternal as per Jigneshbhai) things in investments, the wealthy man in the sprawling bungalow who had been listening to our conversation walked to our table. And today we were pleasantly surprised as he wasn’t as cryptic as he normally is, when he gave us some direct advice.

“Focusing on the unchanging over a few decades is as eternal as you can get in the world of business. Jeff Bezos built Amazon based on what he thought will not change. You must also build your investments based on what you think will not change.”

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