The first category of a 4th quarter, which looms large in some households, is in a sport that measures the length of a game by quarters, football and basketball being the more obvious. That 4th quarter is often the defining one when one team or the other maintains a lead to win, falls behind to lose or comes from behind to overtake an opponent. In the case of a tie, there are provisions for “overtime” to go beyond the allotted amount of time for the game. Players that show extraordinary stamina and endurance often do better than those lacking same and those with high level skills contribute significantly to a team’s success. My observation for a long time has been that the team that makes fewer mistakes has a better chance of coming out on top.
A second category of a 4th quarter is in fiscal reporting, generally from October 31 through December 31. Quarterly reports are crucial pieces of information for investors and analysts. The SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) requires all publicly traded companies to report earnings and dividends on a quarterly basis and it is common for a company to close their fourth quarter after their busiest time of year. Many companies will compare quarterly performance against the same one the previous year to see whether or not there is progress or what else might be learned from this kind of analysis. Some critics, including Warren Buffet and Jamie Dimon, say that quarterly performance is not a good measure and that it would be better to have semi-annual reporting so that people do not focus too much on short-term rather than long term performance. Keep that in mind!
Another category of a 4th quarter, predicated on life being divided into quarterly segments, started at age 75 for me. For those who may be reading this and aspire to get there, Godspeed and good health. If you’re already there, Congratulations. Being active in my own 4th quarter, I have a few observations and questions derived from the first two examples and beyond. And yes, it is how you play the game that matters, how you perform, and perhaps most important of all, who you are and who you are becoming. We are all, every one of us, in the process of becoming. Our own 4th quarter is not necessarily measured in segments of 25 years. It will be the last one-fourth of our life, regardless of the number. It could be as few as 16 for someone who dies at 64 or even fewer in many cases. For the 16 year old who died, the 4th quarter was only 4 years. The point is we do not know when our 4th quarter may end.
People “that show extraordinary stamina and endurance often do better than those lacking same.” While this may seem obvious in sports and in life, the question is more about the kinds of activities and conditioning that support “stamina and endurance.” There are obvious, numerous things we can do that contribute to our physical condition just as ignoring those can take away from our physical health and well-being. The classic two worthy of attention are diet and exercise. The popularity of exercise equipment, commercial gyms and fitness centers, personal commitments and individual programs attest to the attention being given to endurance. Various diets including organic , vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based show a concern on the part of many people for healthy food sourcing and eating.
“Fewer mistakes?” Mistakes can be learning opportunities for the future. If we learn from past mistakes, there’s a greater likelihood of not repeating the same one again and again. And, the obvious, if we don’t learn from the past, as George Santyana said, we “… are condemned to repeat it.”
What has been, and what is our long-term performance? What have we yielded in the form of “dividends” and capital growth? What are the benefits? As we assess gains and losses, how do we measure those in life experiences? What have we learned from the positive and negative in our lives? As we approach the end of another year, it could be a good time to have a look at our life balance sheet to see where we have been, where we are and where we would like to go. All food for thought, possible plans and choices yet to be made. None of us is as smart as all of us and we can work together sharing a common vision, a common purpose and a common goal. I have seen that at work. It is magnificent what can be accomplished.