Garybsmith

Trading, Golf, General thoughts. Not necessarily in that order.

Month: September, 2012

It’s damn easy to get ahead.

Yesterday, I noted the growing trend (90% by my estimates) in people letting me down.  At least I think it’s a growing trend.  But, maybe I’m just noticing it more.

Whatever the reason, there is a flip side in that it’s easy to be in the 10%.  Very easy.  The answer (with apologies to Nike and cliches everywhere): just do it.

My older daughter, Katherine, is a terrific example.  She’d like to be a published writer.  Well, better said: a PAID published writer.

So, what does  she do?  She writes.  A lot.  And submits a lot of things to get published.  She pursues a Masters degree in poetry.  She teaches.  In short, she’s out there DOING IT.

Now, maybe it pans out.  Maybe it doesn’t.  But, at least she’s at bat.  And in that regard, she’s most of the way there.

In an interview in 2008, Woody Allen summed it up best:

I think that the biggest life lesson I learned as a boy that has helped me and is still with me is that you really have to discipline yourself to do the work.  If you want to accomplish something you can’t spend a lot of time hemming and hawing, putting it off, making excuses for yourself, and figuring ways.  You have to actually do it.  I have to go home every single day, no matter where I am in a world, no matter what I’m doing, and putting 30 to 45 minutes of practice on my clarinet because I want to play.  I have to do it. When I want to write, you get up in the morning, go in and close the door and write.  You can’t string paper clips, and get your pad ready, and turn your phone off, and get this, get coffee made.  You have to do the stuff.  Everything in life turns out to be a distraction from the real thing you want to do.  There are a million distractions and when I was a kid I was very disciplined.  I knew that the other kids weren’t.  I was the one able to do the thing, not because I had more talent, maybe less, but because they simply weren’t applying themselves.  As a kid I wanted to do magic tricks.  I could sit endlessly in front of mirror, practicing, practicing, because I knew if you wanted to do the tricks you’ve got to do the thing.  I did that with the clarinet, when I was teaching, I did that with writing.  This is the most important thing in my life because I see people striking out all the time.  It’s not because they don’t have talent, or because they don’t want to be, but because they don’t put the work in to do it.  They don’t have the discipline to do it.  This was something I learned myself.  I also had a very strict mother who was no nonsense about that stuff.  She said ‘If you don’t do it, then you aren’t going to be able to do the thing.’  It’s as simple as that.  I said this to my daughter, if you don’t practice the guitar, when you get older you wouldn’t be able to play it.  It’s that simple.  If you want to play the guitar, you put a half hour in everyday, but you have to do it.  This has been the biggest guiding principle in my life when I was younger and it stuck.  I made the statement years ago which is often quoted that 80 percent of life is showing up.  People used to always say to me that they wanted to write a play, they wanted to write a movie, they wanted to write a novel, and the couple of people that did it were 80 percent of the way to having something happen.  All the other people struck out without ever getting that pack.  They couldn’t do it, that’s why they don’t accomplish a thing, they don’t do the thing, so once you do it, if you actually write your film script, or write your novel, you are more than half way towards something good happening.  So that I was say my biggest life lesson that has worked.  All others have failed me.

And that’s pretty much it.  Show up (on time!) and do the work.  You’ll be ahead of just about everyone.

The growing trend…in people not giving a damn.

Maybe it’s me.  Maybe I just attract a certain type of person.  But lately I find that 90% of the people I deal with have zero reliability.  Think I’m exaggerating?  Here’s a partial list of my recent interactions.

— I emailed a broker about selling our house.  Never heard back.

— Another broker said she’d leave papers to sign in our mailbox.  Never saw a thing.

— Contacted a reputable contractor about painting our house.  Email apparently went into vapor.

— Arranged to meet someone for tennis.  After waiting 15 minutes I finally called.  He picked up on first ring.  Said he had no cell reception earlier and would be another 20 minutes late.

— Arranged to meet another person for tennis.  A no show.  No phone call, text, email.  Nothing.

— Scheduled a conference call with a hedge fund manager for early September.  Said he’d confirm the time/date.  Last I heard from him.

Yeah, I know: it’s ridiculous.  My next test is this Friday.  I have someone coming over at noon to look at one of the bikes I’m selling.  Even money he never shows.

Getting lost.

A few days ago, I had arranged to meet someone for tennis.  I told him where to play and asked if he knew where it was.  He never responded, so I assumed he had good directions.

And at the specified time…he didn’t show.  Now, my rule of thumb is to wait for 15 minutes, then call it a day.

Sure enough, right as I was headed for the car, he came jogging up.  His excuse: he got lost.  He didn’t seem like the kind of fellow who was just late and lied about it, so I bought his story.

Still, I can’t quite figure it out.  With Google Maps, Bing maps, you car GPS, and other wonderful devices, is it even possible to get lost these days?

He claimed he got off at the right exit, then made a wrong turn, and etc. etc.

Now, as one who has zero sense of direction, I’ve done the same thing….back in about 1991.  Since then, I’ve NEVER gotten lost unless the destination was so new it wasn’t on one of the many map services.

So, maybe he really was late and thought the “getting lost” story was more palatable.  Which makes him either rude, unorganized, or inept.

For now I’ll settle for inept, and send clear directions the next time.

 

Painting the house

For the past week or so, we’ve been getting our house painted.  The wood stuff on the outside, and a variety of touch-up jobs on the inside.

Unfortunately, it’s one of those chores that’s a necessity, otherwise the house eventually starts to look rundown.  Even worse, since it’s really all maintenance work, I feel like we’re flushing money down the toilet: in another week, the workers will be gone, we’ll pull up to the house…and nothing noticeable will have changed.

There have been times I’ve enjoyed being a homeowner.  But, if I had to do it all over again, I’d probably buy a nice apartment where someone else had to do all the upkeep.

 

The curiosity factor

In my last post, I commented on the fact that my least read columns were the ones in my supposed area of expertise.

But, a few readers noted that what interested them most, were not my views on trading, but instead, my observations/thinking on “other things.”

And when I think about it, they’re right.  Golf nuts are certainly interested in Tiger’s GIR percentage.  But, EVERYONE was interested in what he was doing AFTER the round ended.

Similarly, I’m really not all that interested in what Warren Buffett has to say about the economy, but I do like the bits and pieces that surface about his daily life.  Does the man watch TV?  How much does he tip?  Does he drive himself?  THOSE are the things that most of us are interested in.

So, I guess we do live in a “Stars: they’re just like us” kind of world.  (yes, I’m no star.  But, you get my point.)  We like to see how people act when they’re doing normal things.  Connects us, I guess.

Can’t figure people out.

In writing this blog, I’ve always figured people came here because they’ve either a) seen me on TV, or b) read my columns at thestreet.com.  Furthermore, I assumed my views on cycling, tennis, or various other topics would garner little or no interest from the vast majority of folks.  I have no pretentions:  I’m just another voice.

Yet, when I call up my page views, the least read columns are the ones on…trading!

Column                                         Views

  • “Can’t go broke taking profits…………. 7
  • “Overbought”…………………………..3
  • “Oversold?  Not yet.”…………………..3
  • “Down day diary.”………………………1

(“1” by the way is truly embarrassing.)

I don’t know what this says about my writing, trading, or blogs in general.  Interesting, though.

Iphone-less

A strange thing has happened in the last few weeks:  I’ve been carrying my Iphone around less and less.  Now, this is no knock against Apple.  As phones go, the Iphone is pretty neat.

Instead, I guess it’s a rebellion against phone calls in general: I seem to take less and less interest in receiving any kind of calls unless they’re of the emergency kind from family.

Of course, being fairly isolated to begin with, those are about the only calls I get anyway, but still: if someone wants to reach me, it’s best to use email.  There I can think about my response — or lack therof — and get back to you when I’m in the mood.

On the flip side, I do carry my Ipad everywhere, so maybe I’m not quite the island I pretend to be.  When I stop carry THAT, then you’ll know I’ve gone off the cliff.

Government lawnmowers

Almost every morning, I drive over to some public tennis courts to hit balls.  It’s early in the morning and no one is ever there.

Every few weeks, though, I’m met with the sound of the county grounds crew tending to the grass.  They’re out there with their high-powered mowers, making sure the grass isn’t an inch over regulation.

Being as loud as runway 22 at LaGuardia, I have to stop when the mowers come nearby.  So, I grab a drink and watch.

And what unfolds is the same scenario each time:  Mower #1 cuts the grass near the courts.  Then Mower #2 cuts the SAME EXACT GRASS.  Then Mower #1 comes back to cut the SAME EXACT GRASS again.  Then, for good measure, Mower #3 (with some high-powered SUPER mower), goes over the same area yet AGAIN.

In short, they spend about 45 minutes tending to an area that takes 5 minutes to mow.  Trust me, the outfield at Yankee Stadium doesn’t have this kind of grounds-keeping.  Heck, the fairways at Augusta aren’t cut this well.

Now I have no grudge against the workers.  I’ve exchanged pleasantries and they seem like good guys.  Hey, they’re just doing what they’re told.

But come on: somewhere in Montgomery County who ever’s in charge of “lawn mowing” has a set amount of money to spend — our money, btw — and doesn’t care how efficiently or inefficiently it’s spent.

Drives me crazy.

 

 

 

My strange body

A few days ago, I fell on my wrist while playing tennis.  I didn’t think it was anything serious, and I popped right up and continued playing.  That was about 3pm.

By 6pm, though, my wrist was throbbing.   On the NIH pain scale (http://painconsortium.nih.gov/pain_scales/NumericRatingScale.pdf), I’d say I was at “6” so I put some ice on it.  Strange that I barely felt a thing for the prior 3 hours, but whatever.

By 8PM, though, the pain was intense.  I had already taken ibuprofen, but was feeling so badly, I hunted around the house for something stronger.  ANYTHING stronger.  At that point, I thought for sure my wrist was broken and I was at a solid “10.”  Hurting so much, I thought about going to the emergency room.

Instead, I gritted my teeth, propped my wrist up on a pillow and tried to sleep.  Oddly, I was out immediately and woke up about 4AM.

And the pain had vanished.  Yes, my wrist was still a little sore, but I was back at “2” level.  Almost nothing.

The weird thing is, I’ve gone through this before.  Stomach aches so bad, I couldn’t stand them, only to be fine the next morning.  Headaches so intense, I thought they were migraines, only to have them vanish within hours.

I’m certain science has an answer.  Or maybe I’m just psychosomatic.  Strange though.