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The Best Interest » You Can’t Control The Waves…

You Can’t Control The Waves…

Kelly and I are expecting a baby in June, so we recently enrolled in a series of birthing classes. The curriculum is eye-opening, especially for an ignorant guy who’s never been forced to empathize with a pregnant woman before. Shame on me!

In Monday’s class, one quote caught my eye:

“You can’t control the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn**
focus photography of sea waves

**Kabat-Zinn, coincidentally, is the son-in-law of Howard Zinn – a big friend of The Best Interest. The elder Zinn famously wrote, “If you don’t know history, it’s as if you were born yesterday.” He didn’t intend for this to be an investing quote. But it is. For that matter, the same applies to his son-in-law’s quote above!

The surfing quote is perfect for childbirth. So much of the birthing process is innate, instinctual, or subconscious. The body does what it does. It’s easy, therefore, to think that mothers are along for the ride, victims of their own bodies, like a listless boat being pushed to and fro in the crashing waves.

But the birthing class teacher is trying to empower her students to realize that they can “surf.” They can’t fight nature’s momentum outright, but they can go with the flow, find smooth pathways, avoid getting overwhelmed by waves crashing over them, etc. There are physical and mental exercises that can help mothers get more prepared for the fantastic challenge of labor and delivery.

gray scale photo of a pregnant woman

Do these exercises actually work? I assume so, but I’m not sure. I’m just a dude. You’ll have to take our teacher’s word for it.

What I do know, though, is Kabat-Zinn’s quote applies perfectly to long-term investing:

“You can’t control the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn

The stock market (or any investing market) is an ocean with millions of waves moving to and fro. Sometimes those waves combine into overwhelming tsunamis and cavernous trenches. When the inexperienced or unknowledgeable investor gets swept away, it can be a life-changing negative experience.

person surfing

You can’t control the market, but you can learn to use it to your advantage. To wit, here are some of my favorite investing quote that strike at this chord:

“Reversion to the mean is the iron rule of investing.” –John Bogle

Waves build up…then crash. It’s normal, natural, expected.

“In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run, it is a weighing machine.” –Ben Graham

Those “votes” (aka opinions) can cause large waves. But in the long run, gravity (aka true fact) pulls those waves back to earth and wins out.

“Far more money has been lost by investors preparing for corrections, or trying to anticipate corrections, than has been lost in corrections themselves.” –Peter Lynch

Waves will happen. You know it. I know it. Get used to it. If you think you can perfectly time the waves and avoid all turbulence, you’ll do more harm than good.

The secret to being successful from a trading perspective is to have an indefatigable and an undying and unquenchable thirst for information and knowledge. –John Tudor Jones

Well, “trading” is hard and not something I recommend. But being “thirsty” for information and knowledge is a terrific recommendation! Learn to surf!

I’ve spent much time these past 10 years “learning to surf,” taking lessons from those far more experienced than me. Like Zinn, “If you don’t know history, it’s as if you were born yesterday.”

My articles and podcasts serve as little “surfing lessons” to you all. Thank you for enjoying them!

And no! This isn’t my first article about the oceans, seas, waves, etc

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