One of my favourite movies of all time is The Shawshank Redemption, starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. I’m not really sure why. Maybe it’s because any movie narrated by Morgan Freeman puts me into a deep, introspective mood. Unrelated note: If I knew Morgan Freeman, I would totally ask him to narrate my life story at my funeral.
Okay, SPOILER ALERT because I’m gonna summarise the Shawshank Redemption for you in the next few paras. This is for those of you who’d rather spend your 2 hours watching philosophical, profound movies like Transformers: Age of Extinction.
Anyway, The Shawshank Redemption tells the story of Andy (played by Tim Robbins) who’s wrongly convicted of killing his wife and her lover. He gets sent to
Fox River Shawshank Prison, where he meets another inmate named Red (played by Morgan Freeman). Red is like the prison version of Lobang in Ah Boys to Men: He can get you anything you want – at a price.
Come to think of it, the army is kind of like prison, except that you have to clean your rifle.
Andy and Red hang out. After a couple of weeks, Andy asks Red to help him get two things: A poster of Rita Hayworth, and a small rock hammer which Andy claims he wants to use to sculpt rocks. At first, Red thinks Andy wants to use the rock hammer to escape, but after seeing how small it is, he doesn’t think anymore about it.
Nineteen years pass. A whole bunch of stuff happens: Andy gets beaten up, Andy gets a job doing taxes for the prison warden, Andy’s bullies get beaten up, Andy gets a job as the prison librarian, and Andy finds evidence that he’s wrongly convicted.
One morning, the prison warden does his usual round of inspections and is annoyed to find Andy’s cell empty. He searches the cell: No escape route, no sign of breakout, nothing. Frustrated, he picks up a rock and throws it at the poster hanging on the wall. BAM! And he realises, to his horror, that there’s a GAPING HOLE behind the poster.
It turns out that Andy spent the last nineteen years painstakingly using his rock hammer to hew a hole through the cell wall at night, and covering it up with the poster in the day. Stone by stone, he removed a pieces of the wall until it was big enough. Then he slipped through and escaped.
All It Takes Is Time
I love that story because it reminds me of what investing is like: Slow and steady. Month by month, we add to our portfolios a little at a time, and we leave the rest to the power of compounding. It’s like geology:
“Geology is the study of pressure and time. That’s all it takes, really. Pressure and time.” – Morgan Freeman.
Some investors are a little more impatient. When I first started out, I was too! But a high-return-high-risk strategy is like trying to break out of prison by running for the gates or ambushing a guard. Sure, it’s much faster, but it’s also a lot riskier. And there’s a way higher chance of ending up dead.
That’s why I laugh whenever I see people talking about some sexy strategy like trading forex or technical analysis. Yes – you hear the success stories, but what you don’t hear about are the tens of thousands of people who’ve tried… and failed.
Me? I prefer playing the long game. I ignore all the news reports and the shiny “market beating” strategies out there. Instead, I focus on building my portfolio bit by bit, month by month, knowing that at the end, freedom awaits 🙂
(I should totally ask Morgan Freeman to narrate this post.)