Payoff — Word of the Week 11/12/12

We’ve made investing sound fantastic so far, right? Investment plus time equals payoff (fruit). Yea! Thinking about, or experiencing, the middle part of the equation (time) isn’t always such a party. I speak from dead center of the challenge of waiting today, when sowing just hasn’t turned into reaping in some key arenas, when it seems to stubbornly refuse. The beginning of investing is great, because the adrenalized decision to exert energy and give generously is fun at first. The end is splendid, because who doesn’t love the final payoff? But, there’s the middle–the pesky middle. Sometimes you invest and see fruit quickly. Sometimes you invest and wait…and you wait…then wait…and suddenly, you wait some more….

The key questions about the eventual payoff, then, are 1) what kind are you looking for, and 2) how long will you wait for it to come? How badly do you want what you’re seeking, and are you exercising large enough delayed gratification muscles to sustain you through the middle-investing period when the payoff is sought sight-unseen for a while? Let me give many examples, because everyone’s desired payoff is different. If the best payoff to you is people’s applause or admiration, will you invest in good and profitable behavior even before anyone’s around to see it yet? If your payoff is pleasing people, can you stand tall for a time when some folks disagree with you or being true to yourself causes them to dislike you? (I’ve heard it said that ten percent of people will automatically dislike you purely based on personality clashes. That realization can help you give up on the pursuit of being universally loved.) If your payoff is prestige, can you reconcile yourself to the fact that reputations are fickle, affected much by rumors and whims based on nothing, so you shouldn’t change your principled actions during a temporary dip in status? If your payoff is money, can you accept that it generally takes many years of study, humility and extremely hard work before you meet your earning potential and settle into more comfortable living conditions? If you enjoy having things exactly the way you like them all the time, can you learn the value of letting go a bit at times for the sake of another’s wellbeing? If your payoff is health, can you continue attempts to protect and sustain your body with healthy lifestyle choices even if you see no immediate difference, remembering it takes months or years for unhealthy cells to turn over into healthier ones at invisible, microscopic levels? If your payoff is feeling emotionally good, can you do beneficial and necessary things when they sting or bring a tear? If your payoff is appearing to be intelligent, are you willing to endure looking foolish for your cause? If you want to belt in martial arts, can you push through times you don’t feel progress in your training, simply knowing that you know that there’s growth because you’re showing up and doing the work with dedication?

It’s one thing to invest and watch small, incremental gains now. It’s another thing entirely to invest in what you think will reap rewards and see no apparent results for a good, long time. Or, maybe your circumstances even go backwards and payoffs fall into the red. (Sigh.) Push has then come to shove, and your beliefs about how to achieve payoffs have been called to the carpet. Will you continue to invest? Do you have faith to keep choosing wisely and well, seeing past the temporary mirage of mismatched efforts and rewards? Can you consider the act of investing in yourself and others as payoff enough in and of itself to help you endure the sacrifice of seeing things through when your rewards are slow or nonexistent for a while? Might there be a payoff just in knowing that you’re doing right by the world and your principles? How much middle-waiting can you withstand in the name of doing what you, in your very core, believe is the absolute best investing you can do in this life, payoffs deferred?

I believe the payoff always comes when you keep sowing good seeds, maybe not this season or next, or even the next, but maybe the very next. You never know when, so never quit planting (but remember that the same principle of payoffs applies to planting bad seeds as well!). Take rests and indulgences, because winter hibernation and seasonal feasting play a huge part in nature’s investment tactic for growing great big things (look at bears and trees), but refuse to lay down the seeds, plow and fertilizer indefinitely. Never lose faith in nature’s laws of investing altogether.


November Message of the Month (MOM) = A Fruitful Life

11/12 – 11/17/12 Word of the Week (WOW) = Payoff ~ Written by Carolyn Sangrey


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