The Tao of Pooh

Since the time he was born, my wife and I have subtly brainwashed our son into liking Winnie the Pooh. His first Halloween costume was Pooh. He sleeps with Pooh, Eeyore, and Piglet in his crib. His favorite cartoon is “My Friends Tigger and Pooh” since that’s what we allow him to watch. Okay, I get it…maybe the brainwashing hasn’t been so subtle. Nevertheless, our gamble seems to have worked—the ends justifies the means.


Our son seen here from last Halloween with his two best friends (all of whom are thrilled to be dressed up)

I mention this because one of the reasons I pushed this on him is that I think Pooh has a wonderful outlook on life. Benjamin Hoff thought so too in his book, “The Tao of Pooh”. It happens that some of the book’s quotes are perfect for thinking about your own purpose-filled life and how your financial resources are best utilized.

“You can’t save time. You can only spend it, but you can spend it wisely or foolishly.”

This is perhaps one of the most important quotes in general and certainly for financial planning specifically. It’s easy to make excuses for why we’ll start saving next year, or start thinking about the college fund when we’re a little less busy, but the reality is that the perfect time to start being mindful of our plans is always today.

“The wise know their limitations; the foolish do not.”

This is one of the most important lessons my parents passed down to me whether they meant to or not (although one I admittedly still struggle to remember when I’m playing golf). Realize where your strengths lie and don’t hesitate to seek help where you need it. Many foolish investors are made by being oblivious to what they don’t know.

“Things just happen in the right way, at the right time. At least when you let them, when you work with circumstances instead of saying, ‘This isn’t supposed to be happening this way,’ and trying harder to make it happen some other way.”

Know what you can control and, more importantly, know what you can’t control. Be prepared to adjust your plan when circumstances dictate it. The market will do what it does, elections will come and go, tax policy will be altered, and perhaps your job will involuntarily change. Dwelling on the uncontrollable events that put you in a certain position is never the start of a good solution. Focusing on the variables you can control is what leads to progress.

“The Christmas presents once opened are not so much fun as they were while we were in the process of examining, lifting, shaking, thinking about, and opening them. Three hundred sixty-five days later, we try again and find that the same thing has happened. Each time the goal is reached, it becomes Not So Much Fun, and we’re off to reach the next one, then the next one, then the next. That doesn’t mean that the goals we have don’t count. They do, mostly because they cause us to go through the process and it’s the process that makes us wise, happy, or whatever. If we do things in the wrong sort of way, it makes us miserable, angry, confused, and things like that. The goal has to be right for us, and it has to be beneficial, in order to ensure a beneficial process. But aside from that, it’s really the process that’s important.”

Goals are important and necessary, but they aren’t the be-all end-all. Attaining an actual goal is a very small part of our lives. College graduation, for example, lasts for one day while the college experience lasts four years (or seven for some of my friends). The day you retire is just one day, but your working life lasts for many years and your post-retirement life will hopefully last for many more. If you get too singularly focused on the official achievement of a goal, life can pass you by. Enjoy the process. Think like Pooh.

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