Do we know how blessed we are?

My sister found a trove of old family photos going way back to the 1800’s. As I looked through the collection, what stood out the most was how dramatically different my life is from what my recent ancestors experienced. In the time frame of humanity 100 years is just a blip, but what a difference it has made. The advancements in science, technology, healthcare, travel and the general standard of living have exceeded everything that was done in the thousands of years preceding it. To say that we are blessed beyond measure in this country would be the greatest of understatements.
 
Yet, if one turns on the news, opens the internet, or listens to a political debate, they would get the impression that Americans have fallen into a deep abyss of despair in a nation filled with crime, pollution, greed, addiction, selfishness and dishonesty. Furthermore, one would be led to believe that we have a horrible healthcare system, unfair taxation, millions of starving citizens living helplessly on the streets, and a divided population that simply cannot get along and complains about everything. Add in morally bankrupt politicians and the picture gets pretty bleak.
 
So, my photo album showed evidence of the unimaginable blessings of living in this great land in 2019, while the noise and screams of the disgruntled voices on our airwaves and written word today might leave one wondering if there is anything left worth being grateful for.
 
Therein may lie the true purpose of Thanksgiving. It is not so much to speak words of thanks but to truly recognize that we have a great deal to be thankful for. Yet gratitude does not seem to be an automatic emotion, nearly so much as ingratitude and the tendency to complain.
 
At the age of 26, I sat in a tent with my uncle and a group of scouts on a mountain in eastern Utah. It had been raining for two days and we were complaining about all the fun we were missing out on. We finally decided to end our trip four days early and go home. I had been backpacking in those mountains a dozen times in my childhood and enjoyed many wonderful experiences, yet as I sit here writing this column I realized I have not been backpacking since that experience. I wonder how many more great experiences I might enjoyed had I not allowed those two rainy days to sour my love of backpacking.
 
Perhaps one of the greatest hindrances to investor success is the tendency to focus on the negative. We remember the losses and economic challenges quite vividly, but in the process forget that the overall picture has been a huge blessing, and continues to be so. Let’s take this special time of the year to not only be thankful for our blessings, but to consider what other opportunities we may be missing out on because of some past negative experience. In the grand scheme, those have probably been no more than a couple nights of inconsequential rain.