Nov

17

There have been so many highways and byways in markets recently as they rushed from official or almost bear markets three weeks ago to staggering new highs with much reversions and opportunities of a lifetime to garner and lose, that one searches for a rudder, a foundation. The best way I know to search for one is to turn to the proverbs of Tom Wiswell in such a situation. Tom prepared a set of 10,000 proverbs, 20 a week for 10 years at his weekly board meeting in my office, and thought that this would make the best of the 23 books he wrote. Tom always wore his thinking cap, and was equally knowledgeable about baseball and the theater as he was at checkers. Not to mix the mundane with the sublime, I will add my thoughts in parentheses after each:

1. The unexamined game: "Little errors left untended ,I've discovered too often have a way of turning into big ones". (Do close out your mistakes rather than hoping them along.)

2. Unity and strength: "It is important to keep your forces together yet flexible, ready to attack or defend as the game develops. Any general will tell you that a divided army is hardly headed for victory. " (Too often we are too expansive in what we put on, especially after a lucky win or two.)

3. The handwriting on the wall: "Often by the time the opening is over, what is going to happen in the ending, is already happening, and cannot be reversed." (A corollary is that he who doesn't hesitate is lost.)

4. Big game: "Remember, when you are out hunting dragons, sometimes the dragon wins." (After those big tremendous declines , beware that a few more mite come.)

5. The Wise Skipper: "Start your game with a plan, but always be ready to change your plan". (Tom approaches the principle of ever changing cycles from a different perspective than Bacon.)

6. Hills and Valleys: "After a winning streak you'll probably lose several games." (This must be tested after rises and declines. But remember the Australian fisherman who never fishes in the same place twice as the crocodile never forgets. Humans are just as smart as crocodiles I think).

Wiswell wrote all his proverbs so that they'd be true in board games, life, and markets . Since the board games are models and teachers about life in many respects, he didn't have to stretch too far, to make the life and markets part work. Here's one:

7. 'If I hadn't gone there,", " if I hadn't made that capture, " if I hadn't sacrificed a piece". "If it were not for the ' ifs', we'd all be champions" (Okay. Here's mine. " If she hadn't spoken at the conference", If I had woke up 1 hour later, "If my limit had been filled"," if the announcement had come one day earlier ", " if it hadn't had the weak close the previous day", "if the auction results had been announced in the morning" , " if the margin call had not come ", "if my friend hadn't been bearish also ", "if the earnings report had been issued before the close", "if the public were not so stupid to think that these ephemeral numbers like consumer confidence and Philly Fed, had deep significance, " if the Fed governor had spoken up just one hour earlier", " if they only realized that the tapering is deflationary, " if the planes had landed just two hours earlier ", … I would be a weaaalthy maaan") (What would you add to that one?)

8. "Unless your are prepared to expect the unexpected, be prepared to expect the unexpected defeat". (As usual the unusual in the market. Every day one tries to find a few instances somewhat similar to the current market activity in the last 5 years. Hardly ever does it do what one expects. The market mistress is infinitely creative. And she never throws you an easy problem, —- unless it is to fool you.)


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