More on addictions

by | Nov 10, 2000 | Archives

One reader's comment on our recent Ritalin feature hits a vital economic point and I want to share his comments with you and why they are so important to our wealth.

Here is what the reader said.

Dear Gary,

Thank you very much for your Ritalin article (at ). This hits close to home, as on a couple of occasions doctors have very thoughtlessly prescribed it to one of my sons. We have not gone ahead with it and are pleased to have taken that course of action.

I believe that you are touching the tip of an enormous cultural iceberg here. The issue, to me seems much broader than merely “colas” or even “substances”. To me the issue is the craving that we humans get – both naturally and induced – which lead us to addictive, compulsive behaviours. True, when this is compounded with chemical addiction, it becomes even harder to break.

Witness addictions to sex, gambling, shopping, high risk, remote control zapping, anger, lying. What is causing all this?

A certain level of addictive behaviours has always been present. And psyche altering drugs have also always been present.

So what is happening?

Like all of us, I have some responses, and they are related to television and computer games (and what that has substituted, and why), education focusing on “success” instead of satisfying the curiosity of what surrounds us and “how to”, seeing others do instead of experiencing, having instead of being, well, anything that removes us from the direct first hand experience of life.

These are all just incidental thoughts on a topic that should be central to our life style choices. Let's start discussing them.

Thank you for the opener. Best wishes, I am looking forward to seeing you in October.

This growth in addictive behavior offers an important lesson about wealth because these causes also make us addictive investors. One root problem is society's focus on materialism and individuality, rather than on fulfillment and unity. The push is on unsatisfying products and services affected by laws of diminishing returns. The attention is on having more and more, bigger and bigger.

Take Coca Cola as an example. When I was young Coke was sold in 6 ounce bottles. It was a big deal when the 8 and then 12 ounce bottles came out. Now convenience stores sell big gulps that are 32 ounces and more! When people finally caught on to the dangers of all the sugar in these drinks, Aspermante (sic) was offered as an alternative!

Cars got bigger. Houses had more rooms. Families added more TVs and computers etc. We measure success in quantity rather than quality.

This attitude leads to a rat race where we don't question the affects of the bigger and bigger gulps of coke, cars and life in general. We just go for it. This attitude reflects in our investing habits as well. We measure success by the numbers. We think that the deals that bring us big bucks must be good. This leaves us without a personal philosophy of investing (other than to make as much as we can). This leaves us vulnerable to fear and greed. We are susceptible to scams as they come along . Even when we make a profit our profits are at risk because we don't know where to go next. And we will want an even bigger profit next time around. We view investing as a process that is successful or not based on the numbers. Only when we invest in something that rises do we feel success. This is a very unsatisfying process that leaves us forever on the run.

Truly successful investors are more in touch with their investments and what they are and do. Short term profits are not so important because they believe in the fundamentals of what they have invested in.

Marketers are trying to mold us daily into the image they want (so we will buy the products they want to sell). Corrupt government try telling us how to be model citizens. Wall Street tries to capture us with greed and dictate what it is to be successful. Yet to be a real success in investing and life I believe in the maxim, know thyself!

Good investing,