Just because something is challenging and requires constant discipline and critical thought does not mean it should be avoided

I have had a very interesting week this week. ..lots of interesting inputs and conversations.
Wednesday I did an interview on CBC Newsworld with Danielle Bochove on the announcement by the BOC that they were pausing in their tightening cycle to watch the on-going slow down in the US economy. A couple of months ago, the BOC and the Fed Reserve were saying (at least public ally) that the subprime issues were contained and the housing recession was not seemingly hurting the overall economy. Today's “shocking” non-farm payrolls report apparently caught many by surprise as not only did the US economy not add the expected 100K + net jobs in August but it lost net 4k jobs and half of the jobs that had been previously reported as added over the prior 2 months. So it turns out job growth in the US has been weak over the past 3 months. In fact we have not seen it this weak in the US since 2003 when we were moving out of the last recession. Time will tell, but I suspect job losses will be in the cards for a few more months in here as the auto and housing recessions take their ongoing toll on debt-laden consumers.
I was at a great conference yesterday organized by Girls, Gals, Gurus. The day was devoted to health education, empowering and inspiring attendees to reject the myths of conventional western medicine and take greater responsibility for managing our health through preventive diet, exercise and efforts to detoxify our living environment. The bad news is that the big drugcos are in charge of the bulk of health information and marketing and so most of what the public learns is reactive solutions aimed at promoting drug sales. The good news is that there are many lifestyle changes which regular people can implement to take back the management of their own health and greatly diminish the risks of disease. It is estimated that a full 50-70% of the disease we suffer from in North America can be avoided through wiser health choices.
One other item that came out of all the presentations yesterday: on-going personal discipline is key to success in managing the risks to our health. This is of course not news to those of us who have been long devoted to daily discipline and maintenance of our health. But as I scanned around the room yesterday I could see that many in the audience were feeling somewhat overwhelmed. If they had not already been committed to buying organics, rejecting junk food, and exercising daily the advice from the experts was no doubt a bit overwhelming. They suggested that everyone start with a couple of things they could implement and add improvements gradually over the next several months. Good health is not built in a day of course; it is a life long commitment. It’s not about losing weight for a special occasion or swimsuit, commitment to our health is a lifelong passion for the health of our bodies, our environment and the health of our families.
The starting point in this journey was clearly to realize that much of what we have been taught about the randomness of disease and our vulnerability to its risks is absolute rubbish. The most poignant speaker on this theme for me was Dr. Christine Horner, MD. Dr. Horner is a board certified surgeon from the US. She was trained in conventional western medicine and worked in it diligently for 20 years before she realized it was hopelessly focused on drug treatments for disease and sorely lacking in wisdom about prevention. As puppets in a billion dollar pharmaceutical franchise, conventional medicine has brainwashed many main-stream doctors and patients. The marketing engine of the sales franchise has controlled and dictated what research and information is disseminated. They have been able to control what the rest of us “know” about our health. And masses of people have too easily accepted the path of no resistance, abdicating personal responsibility for themselves.
In listening to Dr. Horner I was taken-a-back by how similar her experience had been to my own conventional training and education in the money business.
So much of what people “know” about investing nowadays just isn't so. The investment sales machine like the pharmaceutical sales machine convinces people that risks are all random so the best we can do is spread things out, embrace the risks and hope for the best. Case in point is the notion that market cycles are all random, completely unpredictable things that we must just blindly ride out and hope we can survive. An article this month in The Analyst by Anne Maggisano “Technical analysts: Fooled by Randomness?” (Sept 2007) made this type of argument rejecting the idea that market cycles move in generally predictable patterns that one can roughly anticipate and thereby manage risk exposure to accordingly. This is a preventive thesis that I recommend in Juggling Dynamite as alternative to a passive, buy, hold and hope investment approach. Ms. Maggisano perhaps not surprisingly has a day job in the long-lonly investment business herself, so perhaps its not unusual that she might summarily reject a precept that questions the value of this type of management.
Maggisano cited my admission that it is hard for regular people and professionals to maintain the discipline required to execute a successful investment strategy as grounds for rejecting efforts to do so. If it is hard to keep up the discipline then one should not bother to try?
Sorry to offend mainstream players, but the truth must be told. Dr. Horner had to turn her back on the conventional medical business to teach the truth about health, just as a I too had to leave the conventional investment industry years ago to teach the truth about money.
Bucking the status quo is an inevitable part of the journey to truth. It is certainly not a comfortable path of least resistance, but we who have inside information need to call bullshit fraud on our own industries if we are to get on with helping and empowering real life people. I am always happy to hear about the others out there fighting this good fight. Power to the people.

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