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Getting Past Losing

03/17/2012

One of our basic values is that the lazy should not be rewarded with the earnings of people who work.

However, we have a poor, elderly relative, who is married to a husband who will not work.  When her health finally failed a year or so ago and could no longer work, we thought her husband would finally be forced to get a job.  We were wrong!  We wanted to help financially, but only if he was willing to do his share . . . by finally taking a job.  He never did, of course.

One of the most important lessons for every investment manager is NEVER, NEVER fall in love with a stock, because, sooner or late, it WILL break your heart!  That is one of the very few guarantees in the investing world.  Unfortunately, we had fallen in love with our value — not to reward the lazy.  So, we started looking for ways to help her without concurrently helping him.

Finally, when we learned she had not enjoyed hot water for two months (during the wintertime, no less) we knew it was time to sacrifice that value or suspend it in this case.  The pain of NOT helping her exceeded any joy from adhering to one of our basic values . . . a difficult trade indeed.  When we learned she had no hot water, we knew we had lost.  He won!  What’s really important anyway?

Since then, we have wondered why it is so difficult to admit defeat and move on.  Maybe, it is a mere macho win/loss issue.  But, nations are just as guilty.

Was the war in Iraq worth it?  Is the war in Afghanistan worth it?  Any intellectual discussion of those questions is prevented at this time by the emotions on both sides, but it is still the same question:  When will you know you have lost, and it is time to move on?

What has to happen before we accept the fact that the war on drugs is a futile effort, costing thousands of lives and billions of taxpayer dollars?  Even evangelist Pat Robertson thinks marijuana should be legalized.  What has to happen before we admit defeat and move on?

Shouldn’t we ask those questions before we go to war and become irreversibly committed?  How do we get past failure?  There is nothing shameful about failure.  Remember:  the definition of a fool is somebody who keeps doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result.

When an old lady cannot take a hot bath during the winter, it is clear that some value must be sacrificed or at least suspended.

When we have lost thousands of our American boys, our entire national budget surplus (remember, we had it 13 years ago), and borrowed almost a trillion dollars from China, it is clear some value must be sacrificed or suspended.

When the Chinese won’t loan us any more money to build prisons for our young people who use drugs, it is clear some value must be sacrificed or suspended.

Maybe, we should have one day every month when we admit both to ourselves and to the world . . . “OK, that didn’t work.  Now, we’ll do something different!”

Imagine a world less hesitant to admit defeat.  It would certainly be a less macho world, indeed . . . and more financially sound as well!

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