“Chance favors the prepared mind.”

Posted by Barry Ritholtz - The Big Picture

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“I’m rapidly losing faith in this whole game, Barry.”

I received a disturbing email from promising young man who works at a well known shop. He expressed his frustration with the entire absurdity of his job, with Wall Street, and with the ridiculousness he sees swirling all around him.

My reply to him follows:


I cannot restore your faith or improve your morale (Only you can do that). What I can do is share with you what I have learned over two decades, and perhaps in these words you might find some small comfort.

Yes, there is an insanity to the markets that can make you mad if you let it. Instead, learn to see the delightful absurdity of it all. Revel in the stupidity, learn to read when the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ turns into an angry mob. Find some Zen in the foolishness of others.

Step back and look for the variant perception . . . then wait for it to become a money maker.

Consider this was an issue from 1996 or 97 until the collapse in 2000, and from 2005 to the collapse in 2008-09. It is a 3 or 4 or even 5 year time lag between the earliest inklings of recognition of mass stupidity/insanity, to any eventual collapse.

Time is always on the side of the patient. Study, learn, absorb all you can. You are waiting for the next opportunity to make your bones, your fortune, your reputation. It will come along eventually — if you wait for it and are in a position to take advantage when the moment arrives. As Pasteur said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”

You must become a philosopher, a historian, a statistician, a trial lawyer, and a psychologist when looking at Mr. Market. Simply reading the data and trying to trade/invest off of it is a sucker’s game. The noise so totally outweighs the signal that it is easy to caught up in distractions. For the vast majority of investors, dollar cost averaging into Indexes — then forgetting about it til retirement — is their best bet. Its not my favorite strategy, but anything else is too complex for mom and pop to work for them.

But you work in the business, and your clients want/need to outperform, so you must give them something value added. You need to be able to comment on the madhouse — and you can do so acerbically, mockingly, derisively at times — while recognizing, acknowledging, and waiting for the technical set up to bet against the crowd.

The saying goes “The trend is your friend.” The smart money adds ” ‘cept the bend at the end.” The momo crowd, the lemmings, the mad money all pile onto that trend as the trees grow to the sky. Especially at the end — that’s when the weight of the sheeples, the johnny-come-latelies ultimately pressures that tree, and is what causes that deadly “bend at the end.”

You must learn patience, young grasshopper. You must have faith that EVENTUALLY, the sorta kinda, almost efficient market will figure it out. That is when money returns to its rightful owners. There will be long periods of time when the blowhards, the jackasses, the arrogant, the ignorant will be eating better than you. During the dot com bubble, the dumber you were, the more money you made. Many of those who understood how silly things were missed out on the boom.

But this state of affairs is temporary. Eventually, the knaves starve to death under the oppressive force of their own ignorance. Be patient. The day of reckoning is often surprisingly late in its arrival, but it will not be denied. The beast must be fed.

Trust me when I tell you, its worth the wait . . .


Welcome to The Big Picture!

This site is written by and for investment professionals, as well as anyone else interested in investing, markets, and the economy. We key in on what you should — and more importantly, what you should not — do with your money. I have been writing about these topics for ~15 years, and blogging since 2003.

By sheer accident, it has become one of the best reviewed finance blogs on the web.

The writing is designed to be very accessible — no PHD required. Hell, no college degree is required. If I can make this stuff understandable to my right brain art teacher wife and my 74 year old retired real estate agent mom, than I can help you learn the basics of markets, investing and the economy