The year is nearly over, and compared to 2020, 2021 has been a relative return to normalcy.
I mean, despite this year’s political, social and pandemic tumult and flare-ups, compared to the previous year, we actually got to navigate some pretty tame waters.
Yet, in reflecting back on the events in my life that happened nearly one year ago to the day, I was overcome by a memory of personal sadness. You see, it was just one year ago that I learned of the death of one of the investment world’s outstanding pioneers, and also the creator of the original iteration of the Successful Investing newsletter, Dick Fabian.
Dick was an independent man of action, and someone who created opportunity out of adversity. After suffering big losses in the bear market and recession of the early 1970s, Dick decided that there had to be a better way to invest and a better way to help investors protect their money from the kind of market that hit so many so hard.
So, he sat down at his dining room table and began the process of thinking up a plan to track the wider trends in the market. It was there that he discovered that if you had owned shares in the market during periods when the domestic benchmark was trending above its 39-week moving average and, more importantly, if you were out of the market during the periods when that benchmark was trending below its 39-week average, you would have largely optimized your gains and minimized your losses.
It is this simple, yet brilliant, insight that allowed Dick Fabian to build one of the most successful, and longest-lasting, newsletters in the industry. And it is that same insight that his son, my friend and fellow investment guru Doug Fabian, continued to put into action in the service to help investors for decades when he took over the reins as editor.
Today, I am both humbly honored and proud to continue applying Dick’s brilliant insight and Doug’s expert stewardship to a new generation of investors through my leadership of Successful Investing. And whatever the new developments in the market may be, the heart of this service will always feel the distant beat of the man who sat down at the dining room table and subsequently created something from nothing via the power of his rational mind.
This kind of man is both rare and truly deserving of celebration.
I had the honor of celebrating his life just about a year ago at his memorial service in Southern California along with Doug and numerous members of the Fabian family, as well as Dick’s many friends and colleagues.
The famous clergyman Robert South once said, “If there be any truer measure of a man than by what he does, it must be by what he gives.”
Well, Dick Fabian’s gift to the world was his brilliant insight, and for that, we all must bow our heads in gratitude.
Finally, the end of 2021 is just a little more than two weeks away. And while this year had its challenges, it was nothing like 2020, a year which we’d all probably choose to lose from our collective memory, if we could. Yet what the two previous years have reinforced for us is that society has once again prevailed, mostly intact, throughout another bout of pestilence and political polarization.
And do you know why we prevailed?
It is because humans are the most resilient and most successful species on the planet, and the reason for our success is our reason, i.e., our only tool of survival, our rationality. Remember this, and revere this, and know that you are part of an exclusive club that conquers the adversity of existence with the power of thought.
Also, remember that while the past two years’ sadness and tribulations have tested our individual and collective mettle, the concept of what novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand called the “benevolent universe premise” remains intact.
What this means is that the universe and reality are “benevolent,” not in the sense that they are designed for humans in mind. They are not. In fact, I think the universe is entirely indifferent to humans.
What the benevolent universe premise means is that if we choose to think for ourselves, if we choose to adapt to the ever-changing nature of reality and if we act rationally — we can give ourselves the best possible chance to achieve our values.
So, despite the sorrow, hardship, pandemic, loss, suffering and sadness — the benevolent universe remains — and now it is up to us all to choose our own happiness.
“Most people were heartless about turtles because a turtle’s heart will beat for hours after it has been cut up and butchered. But the old man thought, I have such a heart, too.”
–Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea
Poetic empathy wrapped in literary precision. That’s how I describe this pithy passage from the Hemingway classic, “The Old Man and the Sea.” Think about the concepts here. I mean, really stop to consider the truth that you are a carbon-based creature just like the rest of the carbon creatures in the world. Yes, we are the “rational animal” that Aristotle identified, and that gives us the unique ability to mold the world in accordance with our values.
Yet that ability to be rationally self-aware in the knowledge that we have essentially the same heartbeat as Triassic Period reptiles is both a humbling and empowering concept. Realize that you have a heart that beats with a million-year-old tempo and cherish that common rhythm. Doing so will help put any small, pedestrian problems you might have in their proper context.
Wisdom about money, investing and life can be found anywhere. If you have a good quote that you’d like me to share with your fellow readers, send it to me, along with any comments, questions and suggestions you have about my newsletters, seminars or anything else. Click here to ask Jim.
In the name of the best within us,