Maria’s Note: Maria Bonaventura here, Tom’s longtime managing editor. Our offices are closed for President’s Day. So instead of Tom’s usual Postcard, we’re passing along a reader favorite. Below, Tom shares two revelations that changed his perspective on the markets, and more importantly, on life…
Mark Ford, whom I used to work with, expressed an important truth about life in his blog:
In the mid 1970s, my wife and I were living in a humble three-room house without indoor plumbing in N’Djamena, Chad.
I was sitting on our front porch watching the rain spill off the roof and onto our little garden when I had this thought: “One day, you will live in a big, fancy house back in the States. But you will never live in a house that can give you more pleasure than this one.”
My round-the-world trip – with my ex-wife, Kate… our three kids… all the countries and hotel rooms – was a two-year “intensive” on this one idea.
We got detained by the Egyptian military at a remote checkpoint last year. We spent the evening under arrest in a room with nothing but two broken, disconnected toilets in it…
We slept on filthy mattresses in a rundown love hotel in Hong Kong, to the sound of amorous couples and headboards banging against the walls…
We played cards on our suitcase in some eastern European train station in the dead of night when the train we were waiting for came seven hours late…
My Revelation About Life
And yet, like Mark, when I look back on these times, they were among the most satisfying times of my life.
Why? Because I was proud of what we were doing… and we were doing it together, as a family.
Nothing else mattered. Not comfort. Not money. Not possessions. Not even a roof over our heads.
We had a hard mission to complete: To travel around the world, live out of a suitcase for two years, and introduce the kids to the different cultures of the world.
We were doing it together. And we were totally fulfilled.
I’ve never been on a successful sports team, but I imagine this is a taste of what it feels like. The French have a word for this: camaraderie.
This insight discredited almost every other “life strategy” I’d ever tried.
It was such a revelation to me – that you can feel camaraderie with your wife and kids – that it motivated me to start telling our story publicly with emails, photographs, and social media posts.
My Revelation About the Markets
Since I discovered Bill Bonner’s daily Diary nearly 20 years ago, Bill has been an important inspiration to me, too.
Like Mark Ford, he expressed in a very clear and entertaining way what I already knew in my heart was true.
And that is… things come and go… busts follow booms… investors get optimistic… then, they get pessimistic… and contrarian investment strategies always work, if you’re patient and disciplined enough to sit through the madness.
The strategy Kate and I are following with our money – using the Dow-to-Gold ratio – is the ultimate contrarian stock market strategy. (We got it from Bill!)
We buy stocks when they’re cheap. Then, when they’re expensive, we go to the sidelines (in gold – very important) and wait for stocks to get cheap again.
This idea was such a revelation to me, I still remember exactly where I was when I read about it for the first time.
And it motivated me to a) bet all our money on it, and b) start writing about it and thinking about it every day.
Is It Narcissism?
In the reader feedback not long ago, someone said my Postcards are “narcissistic.”
I write about my life… and about finance… and I take a lot of pictures of my family. I post it all online. Is that narcissism?
I don’t know. But every day, I ask myself why I feel the need to tell strangers about my life and share photographs of my family.
“Is it because I love myself?” I wonder. “Or is it because my soul has a ravenous hunger for fame and validation that must be fed?”
This is what I’d prefer the answer to be…
I feel like something inspired me… some of which I learned from others (Bill)… some of which I learned from experience (our trip). And then, I felt the tremendous urge to create something (pictures and words) out of it.
And, paradoxically, because I’d lost all my self-esteem through depression and divorce (I told that story here), I found the courage to begin sharing these pictures and words with others.
So I started writing emails to my family and friends and posting on social media. (It served the additional three purposes of letting them know we were safe, helping me organize my thoughts each day, and memorializing our trip in a nice way for my family to look back on in the future.)
And some of them wrote back to me and told me to keep going… that they were being entertained… that they wanted to keep getting my updates.
I started to feel pride in what I was creating. And it emboldened me to share with a bigger and bigger audience. Slowly at first. Then more.
Each time, the people I sent my “stuff” to validated me and encouraged me, which emboldened me even more. Then Bill’s publisher asked me if she could send them to her audience in return for a little money…
And here I am, telling folks about our life every day.
Narcissism? I’ll leave it to you to decide. I don’t like that word, though.
I heard it all the time when I lived in South Florida, before our trip. And no one ever seemed to be able to pin down for me exactly what it meant… except that no one wanted to be around it.
– Tom Dyson