In some facets of life, focusing on simply being “not stupid” is your best bet. Striving to get ahead can be good in many places, but knowing when to pump the brakes and just keep things on track can save a lot of heartache.
Charlie Munger has based much of his investing career on this, and had this to say:
It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent. There must be some wisdom in the folk saying: “It’s the strong swimmers who drown”
Strong swimmers are more likely to take risks, and as a result, can be more likely to drown. People that are weak swimmers will stay on the beach where they’re safe.
It’s kind of like my buddy Tim that was an excellent baseball player, but made boneheaded decisions because of his talent. He knew he was talented, so he’d screw around on the field and take foolish actions. The rest of us that were less talented would stay more focused and make the right play.
Pushing to get stronger is something we should all look to do, but choosing the right time and place to know when to “push” and when to “hold” can make all the difference in the world.