The irony of having investment experience is the acute awareness that humility is always right around the corner ready to remind us that we’re not as smart as we think we are. When throwing out predictions for what the market is going to do next, it is only a matter of time until humility finds us. While I have written before that pundits on TV have no career risk with regard to predictions, I do, so I tread lightly.
I don’t think I have shown a single “market chart” to any client, ever. Why? Because intellectual evidence focused around statistics, charts, or graphs doesn’t convince anyone of anything. Nothing about the future can be proven.
Don’t get me wrong - millions can be made by professing to know what the future holds, but I’d prefer to sleep well at night by telling the truth. That is, of course, that I have no idea what will happen next.
Admittedly, “not knowing” is the only thing we can profess authentically. It is the only thing we can profess as a statement of fact. But here is what I can also state in the same breath: I have faith that everything will work out okay. As the seasons change, what is going on right now may be short-lived or it might go on longer than anyone expects. Regardless, I can advocate for continued faith that the future will be brighter than the present.
In today’s world, there is infinite information and multiples of that of opinions. This deluge of information and opinion - surely intended to encourage a feeling of certainty - causes faith-in-the-future to get overlooked as the key foundational requirement for successful long-term investing.
Indeed, faith-in-the-future escapes just about every single investment book I have ever read. There are thousands of investment books that focus on the tactical how-tos and speak nothing of the bedrock that faith-in-the-future surely is. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy though. As Vice Admiral, Jim Stockdale famously said,
“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end - which you can never afford to lose - with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they may be.”
We must exercise faith that things will, at some point, work out okay over the long run. Human nature, being what it is, is built to withstand incredible things. Uncertainty, however, is one of the most taxing on the human psyche. But no matter where the markets are at any given time, we must have faith that we will forge ahead and that we will be better for it.
While COVID drags on - albeit with a light at the end of the tunnel - tough times do offer some benefits. Tough times can remind us to exercise a little more kindness because we don’t know what others are going through. It can cause us to appreciate the things we DO have and cut back on things less important. Perhaps being in our foxholes with our families over the past year has helped us to realize that spending so much time at the office isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Perhaps we won’t take our health for granted.
The good that can come from the bad can be limitless. It can be hard to see, but that’s how faith works. Believing in something even when we can’t see it.
Who knows where things will go from here, but I believe that in the long run, the Great Companies of America and the World will continue to thrive. We must have patience. We must have discipline. We must have faith.
Stay the course,
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This post is not advice. Please see additional disclaimers.