This article, by Justin Baiocchi, was originally published in The Northern Daily Leader on 15 July 2017.
They say that life is a journey of learning. Even American Civil War general Robert E. Lee rather sternly said that “The education of a man is never completed until he dies.” In that regard, I have learned much in recent years. I have learned that small children, milkshakes and windy back roads are not a good combination. I have learned never to stick my finger in a candyfloss machine again. I have learned that any item of furniture which is cream, bone, white, off-white, ivory or beige, should not be purchased until all your children are at least 20 years old. I have learned that a small fire intended to burn some long weedy grass, can quickly become a much larger fire which can threaten to burn down the entire district (though to be fair, this is really something my wife learned – I warned her that it was going to happen). During the same incident I also learned that, when there is nothing else at hand, a $150 sweater makes a fine tool for beating down rapidly spreading flames. A wet piece of sack cloth may well have been cheaper and more appropriate, but I probably wouldn’t have looked quite as sophisticated as I ran around in a panic, trying to prevent all of Northern NSW from going up in flames.
Over the years I have also learned a lot from managing investments and watching markets. One crucial lesson which I learned a long time ago, is to pay careful attention whenever I hear the words “This time’s it’s different.” It’s usually said in tandem with statements like: “Of course the stock market will keep going up, this time it’s different”. Or it might be “Of course house prices won’t fall, this time it’s different”. Newsflash: none of it is ever different. We’ve seen it all before. The hype, the mania, the greed, the bubbles and the delusions. The belief that this share, or this property, or this commodity, is going to go up indefinitely. That it’s not going to end like it did before. Or the time before that; or the time before the time before that. Don’t believe it. Whatever the hype, fad or mania, it will end. Your job is to ensure you see it for what it is, rather than to blindly follow. It can be difficult of course, to be the naysayer or the one who refuses to be carried away by the promise and the excitement. Don’t worry about that. Like a man wearing an expensive sweater to a bush fire, your time in the sun will come.