Mar

21

Always play tennis with a proThe recent moves by central banks around the world to spend and add trillions of dollars to their balance sheet leads one to revisit the great coup when an investment firm speculated that a foreign currency was too high, took a short position against the currency, and was so powerful and correct that the central bank succumbed and devalued thereby leading to a 10 figure profit for the investment firm. I knew and spent considerable time in both business and personal activities with the head of that investment firm before he severed his connection with me, and thought that it might be apt to reconsider what I should have learned from him so that I and others might learn from his wisdom for the future.

1. Play sports every day, but not golf, and always use two cans of balls, and hire a pro as a doubles partner, so that you don't waste time chasing the balls around. There is a high opportunity cost to your time, and don't distract yourself with mundane activities like changing diapers or knowing where the refrigerator is, or make trivial investments that would distract you from the main chance.

2. Make your entire persona and investment approach consistent with the idea that has the world in its grip, i.e., the purpose of life is to do good for the needy. Like Lady Gaga, be the kind of person who should be a frequent visitor to the Oval.

3. Never marry a woman you wouldn't wish to divorce, i.e., never get into a position you couldn't get out of with ease, and think of this before you make the commitment. I would add that the selfish wife or selfish price or selfish dog should never marry a man that will leave her in oblivion if things don't work out. Imagine the great harm that the selfish dog did itself by killing a human. Now they're all likely to be rounded up.

4. Never trust anyone. And especially the more they talk about their honesty, the faster and more closely you should count your silver.

5. Foster above all relations with lenders so that you will have enough collateral and staying power at all times as the banks.

6. Be sure that you can play the float that unrealized liabilities provides.

7. Develop economical habits so that you can apply them in the business. Demand a discount on all transactions even if you are going to donate a million times that much to charity at the end.

8. Never waste your time with old ties and loyalties if they that don't have an immediate short term benefit, i.e, "what can you do for me tomorrow and today." Be careful you don't get roped into going to too many funerals and choose your acquaintances accordingly.

9. Never admit to having made a profit, but always emphasize your losses.

10. Surround yourself with big and powerful players so that your positions will be with the forces when you disseminate or implement them.

11. Have a loyal and very tight friend, preferably a retired accountant who vets all your deals with family and only invest in them pari passu with your friend if he invests in it on his own. Be sure that your lawyer is your best friend, and run everything by him at an early stage.

12. Always be humble and admit that your future looks bleak, that you yourself couldn't understand your own thesis, and surround yourself with people that you know are much smarter than yourself.

13. Stay away from attractive women aside from your wife as they can be too expensive and distracting, but feel free to admire them from a distance.

14. Develop a few flow hobbies like chess or music that can take your mind temporarily away from the business.

The most important lesson of all is that survival is the key. Never allow yourself to be expunged from the game or life. If something life-threatening is in the air, get out — whatever the cost.

Addendum:

Always hire a pro to second you when you are playing tennis or investing. The pro makes you look good and can always win his serve and two or three points on the return of serve. It's important not to make a fool of yourself when doing something you're not so good at, as people mistakenly think your abilities in one thing are related to your abilities in another. (People, including myself, have mistakenly made that mistake about me, thinking that because I was so good at hardball squash I might be almost as good at something else). Having a pro besides you for your investments in a field is something I first learned about when I met a friend of the head of the investment firm under consideration and he told me that he was in charge of his investments in Bora Bora or some such which had a population of 136, and I realized that similar pros were handling investments in every other country with population above 50 around the world. Since then I have been amazed at the quality of the pros that the head of the investment firm under consideration has hired or partnered with to lead him to victory.

Also, never wear an overcoat to a restaurant. When you're as rich as Gino or the aforementioned, the hat check people will hate you if you leave too little, and if you leave too much you'll ruin it for the other people who aren't that rich. The investor I refer to was a very economical tipper, and always said that he adhered to this abstemiousness because he didn't want to ruin it for others that couldn't afford it like him. This had the virtue of maintaining the economical habits so essential for business, as well as the benevolent affect on those less fortunate in the investment battle.

More important, what are the lessons that you have learned from persons almost as, equal to, or even more influential and helpful in your life than The Pal was in mine before he sagaciously severed his connections with me?

Tom Marks adds:

 To make it an even baker's dozen to the 12 of those original 10 while perhaps being more idealistically precise, any truly estimable sort would also have found a way to convey the following precept.

In matters of rooting for other people, and with everything else being genuinely equal, always have one's heart wager unabashedly on the underdog as determined by society and convention's Vegas. Maybe it's the temporal variation on Pascal's Wager, as the potential payoff joys dwarf the ante of possible disappoint. Besides, even if the sporting sort loses, which they oftentimes do, they still earned karma dividends simply by rooting for another in the first place. It's win/win. I take that shot every time. Why not, it's amazing how many loses of that type one can endure while still being spiritually solvent. 

Jim Sogi writes:

What I have learned is that it is the wave from within that swamps the canoe. All problems come from within. Most mistakenly blame external sources for their woes. This is called denial. The world is basically beautiful. We are all defective in some way. Learning how to accommodate these various intrinsic human, and particular peculiarities is the road to self realization. It's a long hard trail. 

An anonymous commenter adds:

1. Invest in stuff you do not understand. The Complexity Premium will carry you for awhile, see Enron and Alphabet Soup of securitization for proof. In the mean time people will think you are really smart and that is why you out perform in the short term.

2. Never let someone go over your long term results. Focus on what you just bought in any analysis or comparison.

4. Blow up only when the economy stinks, that way you have a good excuse. Many decent years followed by one excusable bad year. The opposite of course can apply to hedge fund guys. Only have one spectacular year, and everybody will think you out smarted the optimist.

5. If someone models your risks and says it is too high, call the models garbage. After all nobody could model the stuff you bought.

6. Buy everything complex from your friend you played on the same intramural team in college. After all he has a McMansion and would never hurt a friend. He has great contacts, and loves being the middle man and controlling what you and your boss sees. Besides he will then take you to all the greatest golf courses when you are in town.

7. Call being in front of the herd, "herd following" and "group thinking". But bottom selling and top ticking is simply an irrational market and bad economy. If you are in front and something goes wrong, you simply look stupid. But if you get caught at the tail, nobody could have seen it coming, because everybody was doing the same thing.

8. Always be quick with a joke, but make sure it is at somebody Else's expense, not your own.

9. The better people are, the more you need to dig to find their weakness. Once it is found, make sure to define them by this problem.

10. Never win at golf, but prove your expertise in the clubhouse by knowing your liquor. Be sure to always be in the "power" group when you play and drink.

11. Make sure you are friends with your bosses mistress…you never know when you will need to call in a favor and have someone fired.

12. Control the minutes of every investment meeting, nobody reads them anyway, but it is a great way to not have to do something you do not want to, but those in charge want you too.

OK, so this was a conglomeration of several poor guys I've known. 

Tom Marks adds:

One recalls that the stock market last topped out with Scott Browns'
 election. And this weekend may in fact mark the passage of Obamacare.

If the markets rally despite Obamacare, might this be an example of the "busted hypothesis" of which a certain famous speculator wrote?


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