Focus on the process, not on the outcome!
कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन.
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि.
You have a right to perform your prescribed duty,
but you are not entitled to the fruits of action.
Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities,
and never be attached to not doing your duty.
This popular verse from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 2, Verse 47), which was expressed by Shri Krishna to Arjuna prior to the epic war of Mahabharata, can offer us some deep insight into the proper spirit of work and yes, even into investing. This verse is invoked whenever the concept of Karma (meaning “to do”) Yoga—the discipline of action—is being discussed.
Perform your duty, but do not be concerned with the results or outcome. We must do our work and give the best that we can, but we must put in mind that the results do not depend only on our own efforts. There are many factors which come into play with regards to the outcome—our efforts and past karmas, God’s will, other peoples’ efforts and karmas, among others. Let us not be anxious for the results, especially when they are not according to our expectations. Let us give up our concern for results and focus instead on doing a good job. Being able to focus our effort on the work we are doing leads us to better results.
The fruits of your actions are not for your own pleasure. Performing an action is an integral part of being human. With varying roles to fulfill, we have duties imposed on us depending on our circumstances—social status, occupation, etc. While acting to perform our duties, we should bear in mind that we are not the enjoyer of the results—the results are meant to please God. We are merely His servants, so we must use all that we have in the service of God.
Forsake ‘doership’, even while you are working. Shri Krishna advises Arjuna to give up the pride of being the doer. Why is this so, when we ourselves are the ‘doers’ of our actions? The reason is that our senses, mind, and intellect are nothing without God who gave them for our use. God is the source of power by which we perform our actions.
Detach yourself from inaction or non-performance of your duty. There are times when work seems burdensome and confusing for us, but even so, we must not resort to inaction or doing nothing. We can take rest and have some reflection, but doing nothing is never the solution.
So having discussed the four points above, how can we apply these to investing?
In investing, probabilities play a major role—the outcome is more or less unknown. Most investment experts, in order to convince clients to buy their services, often highlight the outcome—the gains, the returns that one will receive after a number of months or years of investment—but never the process they are using to get the desired outcome.
Why is this so? It is because newbie investors do not often ask whether the outcome was due to a proper investment process or merely good luck. Of course, the results do matter, especially since we are talking about resources/money invested here. The main point, however, is that we must understand the process involved in achieving the outcome and not just rely on luck.
We have to focus mainly on the process and not on the outcome. We need to take time studying about investment and learning from experienced mentors and the failures of others. It is essential that we do our part by performing the necessary homework required to obtain the investment process which suits our needs and goals.
As Shri Krishna would have said it, “Focus on the karma. Don’t let the fruit be the purpose of your karma.”
The Dalai Lama also has something important to say in the same lines, “Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.”
In the long run, a good understanding of the investment process obtained by virtue of an appropriate amount of work will deliver highly desirable results and better and more reliable outcomes.
Marj Baynosa is a chemical engineer and educator, who loves reading and writing in her spare time, especially on finance, faith, and other seemingly mundane things.