These Are the Good Old Days

I talk to older wealthy people all day long for a living.  What’s really interesting to me is how when you ask them about the best days of their lives, they unfailingly reminiscence about cramming into tiny apartments or backpacking across country without a dollar to their names or being young and in love and in between jobs and struggling.  It’s always the struggle that they look back on with the most fondness.  Were these truly the best days of their lives or just the ones that are the easiest for them to romanticize?  What’s the difference?  And who are we to judge what they choose as their most cherished remembrances?

We’re going through our own struggle right now.  No one has a clue what the fuck is going on and the record will reflect that down the road, of that you can be certain.  What we’re trying to do in the financial blogosphere is make sense of an environment that no one of working age has ever seen anything like before.  We’re taking the news and the data and opinion and the charts and the research and we’re – all of us – trying to puzzle through and decipher and distill it all down into something actionable, something that won’t make us poor or look stupid.

The smartest guys in the proverbial room have been clowned by this market – Soros retired from Other Peoples Money, so did Bill Miller, so did Druckenmiller.  Berkowitz and Paulson, the most successful mutual fund and hedge fund managers of the past decade respectively, have been absolutely hammered in this cycle, they have been blown up in virtually everything they’ve tried.  If you ever needed a reminder that smart doesn’t equal success, man do you have a case study with these two.

And while it may be a fearful (or a pleasurable) thing to see the hottest of hot shots get creamed by this market, this comeuppance is of little utilitarian value to us as investors and seekers of the answer.  We are gawking at stranded motorists while we sit in a traffic jam, with a collision of our own lying ahead for many of us anyway.

But come conflicting opinions and disparate data points and mixed readings, still we press on and continue to analyze and contextualize.  We do this for our own edification and for the education of those who choose to visit our sites in search of it.  We continue our attempts to stay ahead of the curve or, failing that, at least ahead of the crowd.  We do not give up – even when the contradictions of the market and the economic backdrop daily encourage us to throw our hands up in disgust.

False breakouts, gaps down, backwards reactions, everlasting tail risk, anticlimactic resolutions, trendless volatility, answerless questions….it never used to be this hard, right?  It used to be that if you did your homework and got the big things right, the little things would fall in line.  But “hard work” goes unrewarded (or even punished) too often in this climate, where fools look like kings and then look like fools once again within a single 36 hour sojourn.

But this is the hand we’ve been dealt.  This is what the 12th year of a secular bear market – one that’s spanned my entire professional career – feels like.  This is what it looks like.  This is the damage it does, it rips your enthusiasm away and makes you feel like even if you’re right you’ll still be wrong somehow.  It makes the entire enterprise feel futile.  When success is a flat year and the next failure could be awaiting you around every corner, you are conquered before you even begin.  But even if this is how we feel from time to time, the consolation is that we feel it together.

We are all trying to figure it out together, even when we disagree.  Robert Sinn and Michael Dawson and Derek Hernquist and Dynamic Hedge and Tom Brakke and Trader Mark and Eddy Elfenbein and you and me.  Joe Weisenthal is throwing out all of the research he can get his hands on for us, letting the crowd decide what’s what.  Scott Bell and Interloper are reminding us about what it’s like inside the machine.  James Altucher and Dinosaur Trader and Brian Lund and The Fly and Epicurean Dealmaker are making us laugh and think along the way, Barry Ritholtz and David Merkel are teaching us a thing or two about both capital markets and our own biases in looking at them.  We are blogging as part autodidacticism, part coping mechanism, revealing truths and debunking lies in the process.  And Tadas Viskanta is keeping a record of our discoveries and moments of consensus while Zor and JC and Brian Shannon and HCPG and Pete and Greg Harmon and Chris Kimble and Chess never relent, continuing to bring us new potential opportunities no matter how frustrating the day before.

We post our work in the middle of campus on a telephone pole, the readers see it and so do our fellow bloggers.  There is discussion on StockTwits and Twitter and in the comments section of our sites.  There are disagreements and congratulatory backslaps and everything in between.

Our friends in the mainstream media are right there with us, even if not quite in harms way themselves.  They are organizing the news and blogging for us and with us.  DealBook, the bloggy outcropping of the New York Times’s business coverage is now wagging the dog and likely running the show.  Some of the most talented reporters at Dow Jones are now manning the blogs – there is an almost embarrassing amount of talent at MarketBeat and Deal Journal and Real Time Economics and Heard on the Street.  Over at Reuters they’ve set up writer-specific feeds so we can consume our favorite journo-bloggers’ work by name rather than the entire newswire firehose of articles.  Sorkin came from the blogosphere, so did Kedrosky and so did Carney.  John Melloy, one of the best producers at CNBC is also its best blogger.  Heidi Moore started the world’s first blolumn, a hybrid blog/column that strikes the perfect tone between what we do on the blogs and what journalists are supposed to do in the mainstream.

The process of blogging is both solitary and collaborative all at once.  We are striking this balance together, feeling out the boundaries and linking to what should be linked to.  Writers writing for and with other writers, but in real time.  A 21st century salon centered around getting the market right.

There are analogs.  The beat poets like Ginsberg and Kerouac and Ferlinghetti all knew each other and shared insights and aesthetic elements on a regular basis.  Think Lord Byron pushing Mary Shelley to write a ghost story.  Think Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow all working to simultaneously outdo and celebrate the work of the others in their Bostonian poetry utopia.  Didn’t Brian Wilson say that his masterpiece Pet Sounds was nothing other than an attempt to one-up the Beatles upon hearing their Rubber Soul?  And bringing it full circle, wasn’t the Beatles’ subsequent Sergent Peppers album inspired itself by Pet Sounds?

Years from now, after the market has found its next secular bull market, after Interloper is unmasked and revealed to be none other than Jimmy Cayne, after Weisenthal takes the editor in chief slot at DealBook, after the kids have grown up and accepted their drafting into the Facebook Naval Academy to fight in the civil war against the Google Provisional Empire, we will look back at this struggle.  We will reminisce about the flash crash and the permanent black swan and the collapse (or not) of fiat currency regimes and the intellectual sparring over the various forms of ‘flation.  And we will remember how hard it was to navigate and explain.  We’ll remember the struggle to get it right.  And all of these things we will look back on wistfully and fondly, even the wrong turns and the losses and the setbacks and the skirmishes amongst ourselves.

Because this is the Golden Age.  These are the good old days.  They may be hard to get through at times, but they’ll be impossible to forget.





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    […] These Are the Good Old Days – The Reformed Broker – These Are the Good Old Days. posted december 20, 2011 by Joshua M Brown. I talk to older wealthy people all day long for a living. What’s really interesting to me is how when you ask them about the best days of their lives, they unfailingly reminiscence about cramming into tiny apartments or backpacking across country without a dollar to their names or being young and in love and in between. […]

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