Several times in life, I’ve sat at the wrong table and waited for things to get better. A wrong job, a bad investment, a bad industry… to list a few. Talk about table selection and I’ve made all mistakes one could!
2 years in a job I hated. 3 years with a significant investment I wasn’t sure about. 2 years in an industry that I knew would take me nowhere.
Nothing really happened!
In hindsight, that day in April 2005 was a life changing decision. To quit without any other job offer. I shivered as I typed my resignation. I had very little savings and things weren’t exactly good. I was probably stupid and naive to have decided to quit.
Quit I did, and boy, am I happy!
I had just gotten up and walked away from a table that wasn’t right.
After wandering a bit, I got into a better job. One that I really enjoyed! A job that shaped me. I had stumbled onto the right table without knowing – but only after I had walked away from the one I knew wasn’t working for me.
In the same vein, I had taken loans and had purchased land in Bangalore. I made some money and rolled that into another property, thinking I’d become a real estate tycoon one day. I got into trouble with the papers. I found myself sitting at a table that I didn’t have resources and experience for. And the table was filled with hungry wolves (I ran into real estate mafia and was forced to sell at a lower valuation, but thats for another day) and I was a meek lamb. Again, it wasn’t the right table for me back then and I realised it.
I decided to get out of real estate entirely.
And struggled and taught myself finance over a year and got into equity investing.
Good table! I have had a good experience for over a decade now. But it happened only after I walked away from the wrong table.
In 2010, I knew the good table (job) I sat at for 5 years was slowly turning into a wrong table for me. I quit. And ended up starting my own business. The business is still small, but I gained a lot of valuable experience that became very useful elsewhere. Better table selection again helped me, but not until I had gotten away from the wrong table.
After all these experiences, I have a strong aversion for picking or sitting at wrong tables for too long.
I know it is hard to tell if its a good table or bad sometimes, but in most cases, within a year or two, you’ll know. Sticking onto a bad table even after that is the worst thing one can do. Ask me. I’ve sat at several of those and it always cost me dearly.
It might sound risky. Changing tables mid-way, especially after you’ve plonked down a few years building your position. Yet, if you are dissatisfied about it, staying is a bigger risk than exiting.
I am convinced that walking away from a wrong table is one of the most important skills one could develop. When you are sitting at the wrong table and you know it, find a better table. And jump! Or sometimes, just jump and a better table will appear, hopefully. (NOTE: Don’t recommend this to people who cannot manage the downside if things do go wrong.)
In my case, that has been true. Every single time!