The Investor’s Elegy

Sell them and you’ll be sorry,
Buy them and you’ll regret,
Hold them and you’ll worry,
Do nothing and you’ll fret.

– origin unknown

It’s decades old, this saying. It never changes – it could be hundreds of years old and used to describe coffee beans or barrels of molasses or parcels of land or a claim on next season’s unharvested crops.

Fear, envy, concern, nervousness, anxiety and excitement are the permanent condition of those who choose to play this game. There is no escaping the fact that we live and work under one or another of these regimes at all times.

But there are two allies on our side: awareness and acceptance.

Awareness: Am I aware that I am now under the sway of fretfulness or regret?  Of desire or remorse? Can I recognize the power that these forces have over me and, in seeing them, neutalize their influence on my decision-making process? Can I tell when others around me are being driven by these emotions and, in detecting the disease infecting the crowd, save myself from contagion?

Acceptance: What am I? I am human, I am not immune to the chemicals that combine and collaborate to move my body and soul. Do I accept that I will make some poor choices because of this permanent state of being? Can I accept that what I was driven to believe and tell others yesterday is no longer valid now that I am thinking more clearly or in possession of new information?

Am I aware that some of my instincts run counter to successful investing.  That these very instincts – the result of a hundred thousand years of evolution – have protected my ancestors from predators but do not now protect me from loss and irrational action?

Can I accept that not everything I currently think and feel will be validated tomorrow or in one year’s time?

If I can be aware and accepting, I think I can persevere where many others cannot. I believe I may be able to keep my feet while so many others fall down in my midst.




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