Are Big Wins Really Rare?

While reading Large Amounts Matter Too a quote from JD really got me thinking: “You rarely make financial decisions involving tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars.”    I agree people generally don’t spend huge amounts every day, but are the big opportunities really that rare?How many opportunities don’t we recognize?  Or just barely miss?  How many start small but turn into big wins over time?  Finally how many big wins are really summations of many small actions?

Unrecognized Opportunities

How can you take advantage of a big win unless you recognize it?  I’m very guilty of missing big opportunities.  I’m sure I missed at several million dollar opportunities.  I used the Mosaic Browser in ’92 and I recognized that it was revolutionary compared with text based Gopher clients… but I didn’t recognize that the company to commercialize it would make a fortune and try to get in early with Netscape.. or even try to get some Netscape stock.

Missed Opportunities

I was at Stanford for most of the 1990es, ground zero for a lot of internet startups.  I knew people in the CS PhD program too.  Did I miss some chance encounter that would have put me as an early employee of either Yahoo or Google?  I wonder how many big opportunities we all just barely miss?

Small Seeming Big Wins

Some big wins seem are very small in the short term, but it the long term become huge.

  • Choosing to Invest Early – When you choose to start investing early it may not feel like a big win, but consider if you invest $1 for forty years it becomes:
    • $21.72 @ 8% interest
    • $31.41 @ 9% interest
    • $45.26 @ 10% interest
  • Investing with Index Funds – Saving a few percent in fees doesn’t seem like a big deal… unless you understand that interest rates really matter, and a 0.75% difference in fees could cost you over a quarter million dollars!  You also won’t waste time trying to outperform the market, especially if you don’t have the half million dollars to make it worth your time… even if you are the next Warren Buffett!
  • Diversification – Instead of chasing after the latest hot sector you can own them all and let rebalancing automate buying low and selling high.

Big Wins that Require Small StepsSome big wins are really the result of a multitude of small steps.

  • Investing – Most people save a bit at a time, small steps but those steps can lead to financial freedom over time.
  • Successful Marriage – The I Do is just the start!  It takes a lot of small (and some large) efforts to really make a marriage work.  That has to be one of the biggest wins in terms of both happiness and finances.
  • Practice – To be a master at anything takes years of practice- and those individual practice sessions are small actions with small effect but the sum is an incredible win.

Maybe the big wins aren’t really that rare, we just have to be more aware so we don’t miss all of them.  What do you think?

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