How Many Rows Does it Cost?

I wished a happy Father’s Day to this guy who started working at age 8 chopping cotton. He got 10 cents for each scorching row all summer in the middle of Texas, with no shade trees to be found.

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“I could barely finish 8 rows on a good sweaty day,” he proudly told me. “Then I got to see my buddies who lived in town, and they would buy one piece of candy for $0.05 and a Coke for $0.10. But, it cost something different for me. I had to calculate in my mind - was that really worth one and a half rows of chopping cotton?”

He told that story to my five kids at dinner. I am not sure they understand who picks rows of dry-fit fabric now, or if he was serious about getting to go out to dinner once per year as a kid on a farm.

I do think they kinda got the point. At a time when buying anything you want is dangerously easy, we should measure any decision against how much time it takes to earn that.

Gosh, if only there was a cotton pickin app to force our minds to stop and do that 1.5 rows math at the point of every sale. Deferred gratification is the key to any unusually successful savings plan.

Seneca, one of the world's great stoics, pointed out,“It’s not that we have too short a time to live, but that we squander a great deal of it. Life is long enough, and it’s given in sufficient measure to do many great things if we spend it well. We’re tight-fisted with property…yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should all be the toughest misers.”

Saving aggressively has a more consistent track record than any aggressive growth fund to climb up the mountain.

The most valuable asset of all-time is…more time. Knowing exactly how much is enough to make certain that all of your time is spent exclusively as you wish is the result of unusual discipline, not average rates of return.

Every investor has his or her own "8 rows" at their job. The rows of time you are not willing to spend on stuff is time you can get back with great dividends of experiences instead…

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…like when my dad’s dad took us to the Astrodome for Father’s Day when I was about this age. I learned to love baseball because of my grandpa. To this day, in my office is the first and only foul ball I “caught.” George Hendrick pulled a screaming liner down the 3rd base line. Nicknamed the Hitman, this type of shot which sent grown men diving across seats to avoid is what jumbotron bloopers and protective nets were later made for. After all the shrapnel settled, I noticed that ball sitting peacefully in my seat. Holding it high like a barehand stab was a memorable experience.

The sweatiest workers I’ve been blessed to know taught me something else. Because they view time very differently than most, they all made a trade better than any I’ve ever seen on Wall Street. Removing expectations for more appreciation makes planning a completely different process. In turn, the planning can afford them more time, perfectly well spent.