When I decide to take an action and it doesn’t turn out as I’d wanted, I reflect on it. I try to identify what caused the outcome (a bad decision on my part, or bad luck?) and take those lessons forward. As I began investing and studying successful investors, I started to reflect more on my decisions that resulted in missed opportunities. It’s not something most people think about, but the actions you don’t take can have a bigger impact on your trajectory than the actions you do take.
For example, if I make an investment and it goes bad, the most I can lose is the amount of capital I invested (assuming I didn’t use leverage). If I decide not to invest in an opportunity and it ends up returning 10x, not acting was a bigger error. Let’s quantify this:
Decision A: Invest
Return: –100% (lose everything)
Capital returned: $0
Decision B: Don’t Invest
Capital returned: $110
Loss: $100 ($110 capital returned – $10 investment)
The decision to not invest was 10x more costly than the decision to invest. Of course, these are made-up round numbers—the extremes of both decisions—that I’m using as examples. Naturally, you won’t miss a 10x return every time you don’t invest, and every investment won’t go to zero.
The big takeaway is that missing an opportunity can be as important, and sometimes a bigger mistake, than the opportunities you take advantage of but get wrong. I used the example of investing to quantity this concept, but it applies in many other aspects of life too.