Above the Fray

Rudyard’s Reflections on Investing

One of my favourite poems is “IF” by Rudyard Kipling. Last Thursday, on a day when the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined by over 800 points, the following amusing and wonderful paraphrase of Rudyard Kipling’s great poem, as written by Jason Zweig, was published on the Wall Street Journal website:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on the Fed;
If you can trust yourself when guests on CNBC shout anew,
But make allowance for their shouting dread;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, surrounded by nonsense, don’t deal in nonsense,
Or, inundated in indicators, scoff at what they’re indicating,
And cherish the thought that uncertainty is immense;

If you can remember hearing a pundit say,
“Stocks went down because there were more sellers than buyers,”
That for every seller is exactly one buyer, every day,
Thus reminding yourself that most pundits are liars;

If, reading headlines like “Stocks Fall on Fears of Rising Rates”
You recall “experts” saying only last week that rate rises are good,
And know there’s little the human mind so deeply hates
As the movement of markets that can’t be understood;

If, noticing how slippery tales of cause and effect can be,
When the same reasons stocks went up make ‘em go down,
And detecting another case of “the narrative fallacy”
You see yet another commentator as a clown;

If you can admit that stocks are still overpriced,
Recalling even in 2009 they never got “cheap,”
And accept that certainty must be sacrificed
And nevertheless be willing to buy and keep;

If, hearing “Just buy on the dips and all will be well,”
And studying your behavior back in ‘08 and ‘09,
You find you bought all the way down on that descent into hell,
Then you may be in the few who’ll find dips to be fine;

If, knowing dips are easy to buy when they’re rare and shallow,
You also know they can keep coming and turn into canyons,
Then you’re less likely to turn out to be callow
And have panic and regret as your companions;

(If you’re near retirement and brimming with fears,
And can’t confront the demons of loss and shock,
While dreading a comeback that might take years,
And, knowing yourself, are unashamed to trim some stock;)

If you’ve learned that a 3% drop is as common as water,
And stocks often fall 40% in a matter of months,
And knowing this volatility might get much hotter
And bad news spring up on all fronts;

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the stocks you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and buy ‘em up with steadfast rules;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can observe the crowd and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all stocks count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of resolve right to the end –
Yours is the Market and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be an Investor, my friend!

 

(With abject apologies to Rudyard Kipling)

 

P.S……I did not see this on the Wall Street Journal website at the time it was published but it was sent to me by one of our investors. You know who you are. Thank you!

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