“Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.” — Benjamin Franklin
We understood that quote when we were young, but age gives an ownership thereof, doesn’t it? I have spent some time before writing to you this month thinking about wisdom; how valuable it is, and how carelessly it seems to be treated in the public forum in these United States, circa 2021.
Along this line of thinking, I pulled a couple of quotes from last month’s headlines that I want to share with you. These were attributed to the Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, clipped and devoid of context, then pasted onto news report banners.
From Chairman Powell:
- Many factors are driving the market right now.
- Many unemployed may have difficulty finding jobs.
Evaluating the Headlines
Now I mean no disrespect to Chairman Powell. I respect him, his intellect and his many accomplishments, but I do offer heaping derision to the unnamed news media outlet doing the reporting. Does the financial world really think these are newsworthy headlines? Are these two tidbits the most insightful comments they could glean from the Chairman’s speech? Does anyone think this is helpful investment guidance? And, heaven forbid, is this what passes as intelligent analysis these days? It’s insulting to Mr. Powell and to the public.
A Different Approach
For a bit more of a positive foray into seeking wisdom, I listened to Charlie Munger’s recent Q&A session at the annual shareholders’ meeting of The Daily Journal (Mr. Munger is Chairman of the Board of Directors). I found it interesting and if you have two hours to kill, you can find it here.
As you can see, Charlie has aged a bit in the past year: that will happen when one turns 97, I imagine. How many people do you know that get up and go to work daily, with necktie in place, much less at age 97? Hats off and salutations to Mr. Munger!
Charlie, as you probably know, is the Vice-Chairman at Berkshire Hathaway and has been Warren Buffett’s right-hand man for many years. Since you and I, dear friend, are believers in studying and emulating successful people in our own fields of endeavor, I always make it a point to listen to, or read, the words of Mr. Munger and Mr. Buffett. There is wisdom to be gleaned there, and it’s available to any who will simply take the time to read it. Such is the pity more aspiring investors don’t choose to do so.
How to Become Successful
But for those that want to read only the synopsis, if I were to attempt to write the recipe for the successful business careers of these two gentlemen it would read something like this.
- Become educated. Never stop. Read, read, read.
- Get up, get dressed, and go to work. Repeat daily.
- Invest in the future. Buy something today that will have a greater value tomorrow.
- Figure out a goal, make a plan to get there, and stick to it.
- Do what you know and tend to it.
- The fundamentals always apply, even as (investment) fads come and go.
- And if you want to become a billionaire, it doesn’t hurt to live into your late nineties.
You might, if pressed, agree that such a ‘recipe for success’ is a reasonable, straight-forward approach. If you don’t take the time to listen to Charlie’s podcast, he laments the lack of reason in our society, be it securities analysis, business decisions or the public discourse. I am right there with him and want to recruit you and all you now to rally ‘round this banner. If we cannot discuss, and cannot analyze, we have chosen to remain in willfully ignorant and failed step one of our “Munger & Buffett Way to Prosperity”.
Wouldn’t it be great to have a national discussion on the future of social security, healthcare and insurance issues, climate and the environment, taxation and spending, and a host of other topics? Instead we get posturing, and like Charlie, I don’t know what to do about it, other than shining the light on it. Ignorance, like vermin, flee the light. That’s my theory, at least.
From Charlie Munger’s 2020 Daily Journal shareholders’ meeting: “I have been a great actor for so long I no longer know what I believe on any subject.” — Sir Cedrick Hardwicke
So let us be women and men of a new renaissance, readers of history, tellers of truth, leaders in the public forum, and teachers of our children. I fear for a society that divorces itself from reason. And fear is not a place to leave to our children.