Déjà vu All Over Again

October 20, 2008  

Here’s an excerpt from a magazine I have.  The title is: A Gloomy Feeling

Wall Street was baffled. The market’s 18-month slide had brutally bent the Dow-Jones graph, ending with one of the worst one-day drops. The dollar loss on paper was actually three times greater than that of the ’29 crash.

The market’s prolonged drop has reflected a growing conviction that the Administration has not coped with a troubled economy. Recession and increased unemployment has left people with less to spend on everything.

The Dow-Jones average has decreased 36% in stock values. The averages, like the Dow-Jones, tell only part of the story. Since they are based on the prices of the blue chip, they hardly hint at the depth of the crash.

This is a far cry from the from the bull market bedlam of just a few years ago.

What is interesting about this article is not its content, but rather the date of its publication. This is from a Life magazine dated June 5, 1970. At that time, stocks plummeted 36% from 985 to 631.

Markets go in cycles. Since 1970, we have had several other economic downturns. Of course, knowing this does not reduce the pain that so many are feeling now.

Economies are, in many respects, self-fulfilling prophecies. When people feel the economy is bad, they stop spending. They start to pull their money out of the stock market. As a result, company profits decrease. Companies then lay off employees, who in turn start spending even less. And the downward cycle continues.

Unfortunately, with things are bad as they are, people become quite pessimistic.

Stay Positive

In troubled times, it is useful therefore to reflect on a study done by Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychologist at U Cal Riverside. She studied the relationship between happiness and success and observed that, “Happy people were not necessarily happier after their success than they were before, but they tended to be happier than others who were less successful.” She concluded that, “Success is related to happiness – but as a consequence, not a cause.”

In other words, happy people attract success.

I am reminded of an old joke. What is the difference between a pessimist, an optimist, and an entrepreneur? The pessimist sees the glass as half empty. The optimist sees it as half full. The entrepreneur sees the glass as completely full; we just need to get rid of the excess glass. As an aside, a scientist would also say that the glass is completely full; it is half filled with water and half filled with air.

What do people value? It’s not the glass, it’s the water. The size of the glass is irrelevant. In fact, too much glass can be a detriment (as evidenced by the photo left).

Interestingly, I never thought of the stock market as an investment. I always viewed it as a gamble; a casino with (hopefully) better odds than Vegas. I can’t predict which products/services will be successful (neither can anyone else). And I have little say over what companies do with the money I invest.

My best investments are those that impact me directly – investments in my business, my education, my relationships, and my health. Those always pay dividends.

Now is the time to take control. Create your own self-fulfilling prophecy. Stay positive. Get rid of the “excess glass” in your life or business. And make the safest investment you can: invest in yourself.

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4 Responses to “Déjà vu All Over Again”

  1. Dr. Jim Anderson on November 3rd, 2008 4:48 pm

    Stephen: umm, just what are you doing hanging on to Life magazines from the ’70′s? Who has that much room to store stuff?

    One way to stay positive is to watch what Warren Buffet is doing. Note that he’s lost more money in the last few weeks than any of us will ever see. Is he sitting around complaining? Nope, he’s sinking $5B into Goldman – I’m thinking that he views current conditions as being temporary…

    - Dr. Jim Anderson
    The Accidental Communicator Blog
    “Learn How To Calm Your Fears, Wow Your Audience, And Get Your Point Across”

  2. Eolake Stobblehouse on November 18th, 2008 2:18 pm

    “I never thought of the stock market as an investment. I always viewed it as a gamble”

    Yes!
    I’ve only concluded that recently, despite the many books I read about investing years ago. They always talk about the stock market as a pretty sure thing, and that’s BS.

    I made an abstract of the things I learned:

    http://stobblehouse.com/text/on-money.html

  3. Stephen Shapiro on November 19th, 2008 5:57 pm

    Jim, yeah, maybe it is time to get rid of the old clutter. Actually I found the magazine in a second hand store just the other week. And I hope you are right about Buffet’s perspective. He once said, “Be greedy when others are scared.” Given that the stock market droped another 5% today, clearly a lot of people are scared.

    Eolake, nice article. Thanks for sharing it!

  4. Eolake Stobblehouse on November 21st, 2008 8:16 am

    Thanks, my man.