Saturday, August 25, 2007
Living and speculation, Gonzo style
I find myself in a most unlikely place an a sunny summer Saturday. Home, sitting at the computer after returning from a bookstore run for fresh reading material and the latest financial papers. This is more like my bad weather weekends but I find myself grounded from the world of fast boating. My ribs, the victim of a disastrous albeit temporary defeat in The Great Squirrel War are cracked and I find the idea of bouncing across the bay untenable at this moment. So I here I sit with a stack of books, there are no games on at the moment of interest. We are in the sliding dead end days of summer now for orioles fans, 15 games out of the wildcard, never mind the lead and with the exception of days when Eric Bedard strides to the field in the fashion of young potential god Of the Mound playing nothing even resembling the game of baseball. Preseason football holds no interest, all my fantasy football drafts are complete so I am left with time on my hands to ruminate about the ramifications of everything and nothing. At the moment, my focus is on the book I just completed, The Gonzo Way Bu the wife of The High Priest of gonzo, Anita Thompson
I confess that in my youth I was a great admirer of Hunter Thompson, the great god of gonzo. I stumbled across the good doctor when I was 18 and working my away through life as a traveling salesman of sorts. As I found myself all too many nights in yet another decrepit single sink railroad hotel on the outskirts of some military or small college town, books, my friends from childhood remained one of my favorite refuges from the world. I had a co-worker of a similar literary bent and we read all the stuff young men should read as they attempt to explode onto the worlds stage. Thompson, Kerouac, Ginsberg and of course John d. MacDonald. We toiled long hours each day selling modestly overpriced books to the unsuspecting and unwary and spent our nights, fueled by alcohol and a few select substances of suspect legality in savage pursuit of the lessons and legends of our literary heroes. Thompson was the perfection to which all aspired, and despite failing nightly to achieve the heights the good Doctor soared to, we never stopped trying. As years went by, I read him less and less as the political gulf between out views began to widen and nagging little things like marriage and children began to cut deeply into the available time for soul searching on the highways and in the bar rooms of life. It was clear to me that the reagens policies were working, restoring not just Americas economy but her self confidence and place in the world. Thompson continue to rant and rail against the great motivator’s well as refused to admit the utter failure of the Carter years and I just sort of stopped reading him. Along with jail cells. Illegal smiles, fist fights and Carlos Castaneda, Hunter Thompson became just another memory of a marvelously misspent youth.
When he showed up as an ESPN columnist, I started reading him again. He always was a keen observer of sports and a very astute and calculating bettor, especially of football. I found that I had missed his insights into games and even of life. I had been right about reagen but I had to admit that he had been all too correct about George the Younger and his misadventures with America. We still had some significant differences on the redistribution of wealth but if he could help me find one mispriced line a week I was willing to overlook it. I was shocked and saddened when he killed himself. I felt like an icon of my youth as well as one of the great writers of our day had left the world. It was a hole I suspected we would not see filled anytime soon. It was with some interest that I ordered Anita’s book and looked forward to reading it. It is a slim volume barely more than 100 pages but it is packed with some powerful insights. Anita chose not to write a history, leaving that task to others in the days to come, but focused on some of hunters core beliefs and some of the things she learned from him along the way. I was surprised to discover that many of these have direct application to speculating and living. Although I may not approach them in the same way as Mrs. Thompson some of these questions and insights are worthy of consideration. This is not a book review so much as my own thoughts in response to the questions raised and lessons learned from this little book. They are from both chapter and section titles that struck me as powerful.
Never Stop Learning.
This is chapter one of the book, as it should be. He quest for knowledge is one of the most important facets of a well lived life. I don’t think it matters what knowledge you search for as long as you are searching. We cannot all be looking for the deep hidden meaning of the universe but we can be learning something every day that benefits our live and those around us. A new way to improve your business, a new dish to cook, a new author to read, a new way to look at markets and at stocks. It really doesn’t matter what it is as long as you are learning and continue to seek to learn. The quest for knowledge is the quest for a better life.
Bet with Your head Not With Your heart
This simple sentence can do much to improve my life. Whether it be a stock, a markets, a baseball team or a woman, a judicious use of the brain cells can help prevent a loss. I love the Orioles as you all know. Betting on them would be financial suicide. I love women as well. Bets there have tended to end just as badly when blinded by desire and infatuation it is easy to make bets that have little or no chance of success. Don’t get me wrong. I ll probably continue to do it. But at least I won’t bet on the orioles. Same with stocks and the markets. I have seen all too many people take a round trip in a stock from low to high back to low because they fell in love with it. Use your head. Stocks cannot love you back. Same with particular strategies or methodologies. Markets adapt, so must we(this also goes back to never Stop learning).
It is Wrong When It Stops Being Fun
I think this might be one of the most important sentences in the whole book. Apply it to you job, your trades, where you live, your relationships, anything and see how stunningly true this is. We too often forget that life should be fun. If life was all that serious a venture we wouldn’t be mortal. If you do not love trading you probably should stop. If you cannot find the simple happy things about your partner and you no longer share the joy of being together, you should probably split. If you aren’t happy where you live, you should probably move. Hate your Job? Get a new one. Life is brutishly short no matter how long it my seem when your team is 20 games out, football doesn’t start for three weeks and your ribs are cracked by a vengeful squirrel. It is over far, far too soon. Enjoy every moment you can and when it stops being fun, it is wrong. Time to either make it fun again or move on.
We is the Most Important Word
I am paraphrasing and twisting the book here but remember this not a review just my thoughts and observations from reading it. While at heart a randian and well aware the consequences, success and failures of my own action are my own responsibility, I still feel that we is a huge factor in a life well lived. We. Ourselves and those around us. I am blessed (really I think the only word that fits) to be a part of two unique we’s. first there are those from the speculative word. Hanks to Victors creation of the spec list , I have met many of the greatest minds of our time, not just in financial fields but certainly that is a big part of it. But also men and women who excel in a range of fields, Education, Literature, Psychology, medicine Law, real estate, engineering, biotech, an incredibly wide range of fields. I have learned much from all of them and greatly increased my store of knowledge(again, see Never stop learning)There is a subset of this group, the after dark group that band of brothers, with a few sisters in the mix who roam the land from new York to Chicago, to Lexington, Annapolis and the wilds of Iowa soon talking drinking, playing learning and having fun. It is amazing to me how quickly we became close, the result of a lot of nights we will never remember in the company of those we will never forget. There are too many stories and too many lessons learned to list here but someday I think this a book I shall write. The after dark bunch spread for the Mighty Metropolis of Deltaville to the sunny climes of green bay and I have come to love them all over the years.
There is another we as well, that group of friends here on the island of misspent toys call Kent. I fell into this group a few years back and it has become a big part of my life. It was pointed out to me not long ago by an outside observer that what we have here is pretty unique. Our group ranges from late 20s to early 60s in age with mist in the 30s and 40s. By this time most people have settled down into their lives, have a few work friends, a neighbor or two, maybe some old college buddies they talk to once in a blue. Too have this large a group of individuals who call each other friend, and treat each other that way is unique. It is a wide range of occupations and all of us are reasonably successful(you have to be to pay these bar bills). I was asked if it was a love of boating that created the group. I started to say yes as boating is a central theme in warmer months. But as I though about it, I realized that was wrong it was a love of life that the group shared. Boating sure, but football Sundays around the TV with friends, long conversation about anything and everything, fishing( although not me. Do you know early those fisher types get up? On the weekend yet), steaks on the grill on a lazy Sunday evening, beers on the dock after a long week. We celebrate each other success and share the defeats. Marriages, divorces, births deaths, wins and losses I have seen the Kent Island bunch stand by each other through it all. It is like having an extended family, one that you actually like with no long harbored resentments of who mommy like best or who always got the biggest slice of cake. I consider myself lucky to have fallen in among them.
What is the desired effect.
Thompson liked to ask himself this question before taking action. What is the desired effect of our contemplated action? Outrage,humor,inspire? Why are we doing this? To make money? To have fun? I think this one sentence can greatly improve decision making ability. At least for me.
Would You do It again?
What a great way to review our mistakes and misadventures. Whether it be a bad trade, a failed relationship or just random screw up. Given the same set of circumstances would you make the same decision. If the answer is yes, then move on. The dice, as they sometime will, moved against you. You were true to yourself and played whatever the situation to the best of your ability and knowledge. If however, the answer is no, then there is studying to be done about how we reached the wrong decisions and what changes need to be made or where our knowledge needs to be expanded.
It is The Recovery That Matters
Adversity is like sh*t. It happens. Trades will go against us. Stocks will miss earnings. The upward drift ,in life as markets, will be bumpy. Relationships will fail, love will fade, there will be accidents of floods of reality and emotions. There was no guarantee on your birth certificate and the founding father only promised you the pursuit of happiness, not eternal happiness itself. It is how you deal with it that matters. Victor has long been the shinning example of this to me, dealing with adversity that can break you but he got up plowed on and rose again. We will be knocked down form time to time. But to get up and begin to heal and recover is to m the essence of the pursuit of happiness
Truth is Easier
No need for a lot of commentary here. This is one of life’s great truths that is all to easy to forget at times. Tell the truth, face the truth and let the chips fall where they may.
It Never Got weird Enough For Me
“Reality”, Thompson said in 2002, “is still stranger that anything I could make up” How true it is. Life is weird. But I think weird might be a good thing. I look at some of the weirdness is my own life over recent years. A high school dropout ghost writing two leading investment books. Soft spoken Kentucky drawls. Rib cracking squirrels, my mtv daughter finding and becoming immersed in classic literature and she doesn’t even have to study in school, three blondes in a bar, lets just be friends, Irish bars on 51st and 2nd, the journey to potters patch, whiteouts on rush street. Life is weird. If we live it right, taking intelligent risks in markets, love and life(in my case I may have to go with two out of three. Something about legs and breasts that make me break out in stupidity) facing our fears and overcoming them, daring to be a part of we and life will be weird. And exciting. And interesting. And successful in all the ways that matter. Embrace the weird. The alternative of course is boring normal. Nine to five. Frozen dinner. Spouse who doesn’t like, much les want to sleep with you. Network television. Generic beer. Sorry. Give me the weird. Good friends, good wine, victories and defeats, spoils and scars. I hope that for me, and for you, it never gets weird enough.