There’s an old story about the ant and the cockroach that my parents told me this story growing up. The point of this story was definitely an interesting moral.
Once upon a time there was an ant and a cockroach. They were both friends, but had completely opposite habits. All summer the cockroach would have fun with his other roach friends and snack on sugar. Meanwhile, the ant would continue to go out everyday and bring food back home. One day, the cockroach spoke out of frustration to the ant and said “you work hard everyday, you need to live a little”. In which the ant replied “I work hard everyday so I can live A LOT”.
The roach didn’t understand this until finally the winter rolled around. Food was scarce and it was too cold for the cockroach to go out to find some. He went over to the ant and said “the winter is here and food is short. What are we going to do?!?” The ant replied “I didn’t wait for winter to figure that out. As you can see, I have a stockpile of food. There is no more food out there for me to get so I can rest and relax with my family in the warmth of our underground habitat. I do not have to work again until the summer!”
The cockroach was baffled by the ant’s commitment to having a secure and safe winter. By this time, it was too late for the cockroach and he had no options. Luckily, the ant had scraps to share and the cockroach made it through the winter, learning a valuable lesson.
My parents were trying to drive the point home that looking for an immediate reward or instant gratification from an investment isn’t actually beneficial. Long term success absolutely defeats short term gratification.
In fact, almost everything worth while materializes long term. Just think about it for a minute. If you’re going to the gym and lifting weights, it’ll take months to actually start seeing some results. The lifting part isn’t gratifying, it’s the results that are. What about weight loss? Changing the way you eat isn’t really the fun part, it’s the numbers changing on the scale in a month from now.
The same can be said about saving money. It’s inconvenient that you are putting money away when you can be spending it. Saving $20 a week may seem like it has very little impact, but what will it look like in five or ten years?
When you actually look at short term and long term investments, you begin to see a pattern. A solid principle begins to emerge. The more immediate a gratification is, the more likely it is to have undesirable long term results. The further away the results are, the more likely that you will benefit long term from it.
Think about what you do in your daily lives. How many activities do you do for instant gratification and how many are you doing for long term goals? See if you can trade short term pleasure for some long term success. Instead of going straight home after work to play video games, try stopping by at the gym first!