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Priorities

Last Friday, I had the privilege of interviewing Morgan Housel, partner at a NYC-based venture capital firm. Morgan is an incredible writer, thinker and person. Our conversation will be released in the new year, as part of a new podcast, aptly named “The Investing City Podcast.”

Ok, that’s the plug. We’ll keep you updated as the release date nears.

Morgan talked about a lot of interesting ideas, but I wanted to highlight one in this post: priorities. But first, a story…

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There once was a teacher who was trying to illustrate the importance of priorities. To give his students a visual representation, he held up a mason jar.

First, he filled up the jar with golf balls and asked his students, “Is it full?”

The reply was a unanimous yes.

Next, he poured small pebbles in the jar to fill in the spaces between the golf balls.

“Is it full?”

Once again, a resounding yes.

Lastly, the teacher dumped sand into the jar, filling it up completely.

Then, he asked his students, “what does this illustration mean?”

Crickets.

So he explained himself.

“You see, the golf balls represent your most important priorities, loved ones, religion, and what you love to do. If you lost everything else, the jar could still be viewed as full. The pebbles signify second tier priorities like your job, house and car. And then the sand is the small stuff like chores or social media.”

He continued, “If you put the sand in the jar first, there’s no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. And it works the same way in life. If you fill up your life with the small things, you won’t have room for the most important things. So always put your golf balls in the jar first!”

I love this illustration because it is simple and relevant. If we’re not careful, we can let our priorities be dictated by the world around us. After all, life has a way of, for lack of a better phrase, getting in the way.

If we’re not intentional about putting first things first, it’s easy to get caught “Keeping Up With the Joneses.” (I promise I’ll stop with the cliches. Then again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder…ok, now I’m done.)

Back to Morgan.

He was talking about how nearly all of his money is invested in index funds because his priority is making sure he doesn’t ruin the 8th wonder of the world, otherwise known as: compound interest.

His #1 priority is being able to look at his family and say, “We’re going to be all right” rather than beating the S&P 500. His goal is not to be the world’s best investor. He’s just filling his jar with golf balls, that’s all.

What does your jar look like?