“I Am Indeed Slow to Act. Some Interpret That As a Lack of Courage. My Take Is That It Is Better Understood As a Situational Kind of Courage. I Need to Be Very Sure Before I Become Unbending.”

Set forth below is the text of a comment that I recently put to the Goon Central board:

He’s all talk and no action.   He never does anything.

I am slow to act, GW. For good or for ill. If I were asked to give one word to describe my personality, it would be “methodical.” I like to be sure.

That’s why I was the first one to go public about the errors in the studies. I had noticed them years before. My guess is that lots of other people noticed them. I didn’t shoot my mouth off. But I didn’t stop thinking about them either. I thought and thought and thought. And when I felt that I knew enough to venture forward and say something, I ventured forward and said something.

It was the same with everything else.

It was the same with contacting Bogle. It was the same with sending the e-mails. It was the same with saying that Buy-and-Hold caused the economic crisis. It was the same with saying that the new research shows us that stocks are less risky than bonds and that we can reduce stock risk by 70 percent. It was the same with using the phrase “financial fraud” (I used that phrase in correspondence with an e-mail respondent the other day, the first time I recall using it somewhere other than here — I test things out here and then work up the courage to follow-up elsewhere). It was the same with making note of the prison sentences.

There are some lines that I will never cross. No matter how bad things get.

I am the leader re this matter. But FoolMeOnce  once made the point that being a leader doesn’t amount to much if you don’t have followers. FoolMeOnce wanted to be with me. But he was afraid because there were not lots of others publicly declaring that they wanted to be with me. Lots of people are like that.

If that never changes, my efforts will never succeed. This is not a one-man job.

You’ve got me re that one.

I think it will change. But I am not God. I’ve been wrong about lots of things. It could be that I am wrong about this.

However, if there comes a day when people show a willingness to follow, I will lead. I’ll be scared. I was scared when I put forward the May 13, 2002, post. I forced myself to push the “send” button. I’ll force myself to lead this effort where it needs to go for millions of people to feel safe saying what they truly believe about stock investing on EVERY board and blog on the internet. That’s the job. I will see it through to completion presuming that I someday have the number of followers required for this to be a viable proposition.

I don’t think of myself as being a person of great courage. If I had been a person of great courage, the May 13, 2002, post would have gone up in May of 2000.

But I am something. I follow through. When I commit myself to something, after pondering and pondering and pondering whether it is the right choice or not, I stock to that path in the face of relentless opposition. There have been one or two other turning points in my life in which similar events played out. I handled things in the same way. With love for the other side. With a great desire for compromise. But with a steel resolve not to betray the core mission, which I elected only after a great deal of pondering as to what was the right way to proceed.

It’s not my purpose here to brag. I am not saying how great I am or how strong I am. I am not predicting ultimate victory. Perhaps I will end up in the electric chair, like Greaney once predicted.

What I am saying is that, if I fail, it will not be because I did not follow through. I am slow to act. But I evidence determination in the actions I take. There’s something in the nature of the methodical person that makes him slow to act in cases in which he is not sure (which is most cases) and determined in cases in which he is sure (the small number of cases to which he has devoted so much thought that even his methodical soul is clear re what must be done).

I believe — based on my life story — that the methodical person is the most determined person once he has convinced himself that an action absolutely must be taken. People don’t see it that way because the methodical person so rarely sticks his neck out. But it is not really a lack of courage that causes the methodical person to generally refrain from sticking his neck out. It is a lack of certainty. The methodical person sees both sides of the story. So he is generally content to let the other guy — who seems so much more sure of himself — call the play. In those few cases in which the methodical person has directed enough mental energies to a matter to feel comfortable sticking his neck out, he is so sure that he cannot live with himself if he does not evidence follow-through.

That’s where I think things stand, in any event.

There are lines that I will never cross because I could never feel comfortable crossing them. I will never say “I know for certain that Valuation-Informed Indexing works” because I don’t believe it is possible for one person to be that sure of anything. No one person knows it all. I could be missing an important piece of the puzzle. I can believe that VII works. I cannot by myself know for certain.

It’s not just me on the issue of whether honestzzz posting should be permitted. That one is backed by our entire society, our entire culture, our entire history, our entire legal system. That’s why I feel so sure re that one. Re that one I am positive.

If I obtain a sufficient number of followers to achieve my goals, I will have what it takes to follow through. I know this from life experience. I won’t flinch. I won’t go sentimental. I won’t offer deference to my “betters.” I’m tough as nails when the circumstances are such that a person with my personality feels driven to be as tough as nails.

If I don’t obtain a sufficient number of followers, this will not happen. I will never feel that it is right to force it. I don’t believe that that can ever be the right thing to do and I will never be able to persuade myself that it is the right thing to do, no matter the circumstances. If things reach a point where our entire economic system is about to collapse and I still do not have a sufficient number of followers, so be it, that’s what was meant to happen. I don’t judge myself according to whether I achieve success in the eyes of the world (perhaps you have noticed!). I judge myself according to whether I have lived up to my internal standards. My internal standards compel me to send the e-mails. My internal standards forbid me from crossing lines that I believe should never be crossed. So there are many “options” that some others might consider that are not even remotely possible options in my mind.

Anyway, that’s where things stand from my perspective.

I am determined. And I am optimistic. But I am not certain. There are ways that things could play out that you guys would “win.” That sort of win would be a horrible loss for all of us, in my assessment. But I do not say that there is zero chance that we will all have to endure what comes with a win for you guys (and witches).

I am not entirely lacking in courage, though. I am indeed slow to act. Some interpret that as a lack of courage. My take is that it is better understood as a situational kind of courage. I need to be very sure before I become unbending.

Comments

  1. Evidence Based Investing says

    That’s the job. I will see it through to completion presuming that I someday have the number of followers required for this to be a viable proposition.

    You’ve been at this for over 10 years now. How many followers would you estimate that you have at the moment?

  2. Rob says

    You’re asking an intelligent question, Evidence.

    We have had thousands of our fellow community members express a desire that honest posting be permitted at every investing board and blog on the internet. If I have thousands of supporters at just the number of boards and blogs at which I have participated, the number of people interested in hearing this message in the general population is certainly in the tens of millions.

    The obvious question is — Why don’t they post at this site?

    They are not convinced of the case, Evidence.

    Valuation-Informed Indexing is a new idea. Buy-and-Hold was once a real thing. Pre-1981, there really was academic research that was thought to support it. To move from something that was widely thought to be real to something new, people need to be PERSUADED.

    People are persuaded through DISCUSSION.

    Valuation-Informed Indexing is the future. Buy-and-Hold is the past.

    But, to get from the past to the future, we first must open the internet up to DISCUSSION of the case for each model.

    With discussion, I have tens of millions of supporters.

    Without discussion, you go to prison following the next price crash.

    Why? Because we live in a society in which discussion of new ideas is PERMITTED. To block those thousands of people from learning what they needed to learn, you had to engage in criminal acts. Engaging in criminal acts as part of an 11-year cover-up of errors made in a retirement study gets you a prison sentence. Bernie Madoff is in a prison cell today for a crime of financial fraud that did harm to only a tiny fraction of the number who were harmed by YOUR act of financial fraud.

    I hope that helps a bit.

    I naturally wish you all good things.

    Rob

  3. What says

    So start a discussion board. Problem solved. You will def have 10 million followers in the first few weeks.

  4. donnatellnoone says

    I don’t get it. Can’t people discuss these issues here? I guess a regular board would be better than a blog, but why don’t you start a board devoted to your ideas?

    I don’t get it.

  5. Rob says

    So start a discussion board.

    I did that back in May 1999, What. It was the Retire Early board at Motley Fool. It was the most successful board in the history of the site.

    There were hundreds of people there who expressed a desire that honest posting be permitted. Greaney said “no way.” Motley Fool backed Greaney.

    There is a lot of money to be made promoting Get Rich Quick schemes, What. That’s the reality.

    The idea that the Buy-and-Holders had of rooting investment advice in what the academic research says was an A+ idea. The problem so far has been in the execution. Get Rich Quick strategies are always going to be more popular than research-supported ideas during an insane bull market. For the idea of rooting advice in the research to work, we need to be willing to permit HONEST reporting of what the research says. That would change everything.

    That’s the next step. We are as a society in the process of working up the courage to stand up to the Wall Street Con Men. When we do, it’s over. When we do, you will see hundreds of people starting sites that promote research-based strategies. There will be no more Buy-and-Hold. There will be no more Old School SWR studies. There will be no more Campaign of Terror. There will be no more economic crisis.

    I can’t wait.

    Please take good care, my old friend.

    Rob

  6. Evidence Based Investing says

    I did that back in May 1999, What. It was the Retire Early board at Motley Fool. It was the most successful board in the history of the site.

    You did not start the Retire Early board at Motley Fool.

  7. Rob says

    We come at this from very different perspectives, What.

    If I “control” a board in the way you use the word, no one will learn from it. They will hear Rob Bennett’s opinions and nothing else. That would make me sick. I am confident that it would make lots of others sick too. So — Not interested.

    What I am looking for is a board that is “controlled” by the published rules accepted by the community that congregates there. That was what the Retire Early board was before it was destroyed by the Greaney Goons and that was the best board I have ever seen. The Bogleheads Forum had a lot of that in it before it was brought down by Lindauer.

    When people are made slaves, they are no longer capable of doing their best work. And someone who pretends to agree with a Get Rich Quick strategy just because some internet Goon threatens to kill his family members is essentially a slave. I am afraid that that sort of thing is not my particular cup of tea. No can do.

    I don’t feel a need to “control” any group of humans (a discussion board is comprised of a group of humans). I’d rather hear what all segments of a community have to say. The magic of this powerful internet communications medium comes from the interactions you see when people coming from different points of view are all able to participate HONESTLY.

    That’s my sincere take re this important matter, in any event.

    Rob

  8. Rob says

    Would the board community that I describe end up with 10 million followers? Not quite. But close.

    I am confident that the board community that I describe — the board community that I intended for the Retire Early board to become — would be the most popular personal-finance discussion-board on the internet.

    I think we will get there. Let’s all say a prayer that it happens soon!

    Rob

  9. what says

    Ya, I meant ‘control’ in the sense that you wouldn’t be banned in the first few moments of its existence.

    I think you need more than prayers btw. 10 years of completely ineffective actions – hopefully for your sake you have more of a plan than praying.

  10. Rob says

    I meant ‘control’ in the sense that you wouldn’t be banned in the first few moments of its existence.

    What does that say about Buy-and-Hold, What?

    Rob

  11. Rob says

    10 years of completely ineffective actions

    On the substantive side, I’ve accomplished things beyond my wildest dreams, What. Things on the process side have indeed held me (and all of us) back. That’s of course unfortunate. But it doesn’t mean we should give up. It explains why the opportunity available to us here is so big.

  12. Rob says

    hopefully for your sake you have more of a plan than praying.

    God helps those who help themselves, What. So I certainly need to work it myself in addition to saying my prayers.

    But it is in God’s hands, not mine. If God doesn’t mean for this to happen, it’s not going to happen, no matter how hard I work it.

    I had a discussion about this with my mother shortly before she died. She said that maybe all that I am trying to teach people is going to become widely accepted after my death. Oh, great! I hate that idea.

    It was just like my mom to say that, though. My favorite trait of hers is that she was not one to sugarcoat. So I have to accept that she might be right.

    Now –

    Why would God do that to me? It sounds almost like a trick.

    It could be that He wanted me to learn patience or compassion. There might be some lesson in all this that I am today oblivious to that I can only become aware of by experiencing whatever I will be experiencing as the days move on. Perhaps I really will be put to death, you know? Perhaps there is some lesson that I can only learn by being put to death and God knows that it is only re this issue that I could ever possess the courage needed for things to reach that point (the issue of standing by your friends on the internet really does touch me in a way that not too many other issues do).

    If that’s God’s plan, that’s God’s plan. I don’t want it to be so, I don’t like the idea one little bit. But I pray that I have the courage to accept God’s plan here without too much whining.

    I don’t control the world, What. I don’t pretend to. I am some guy who figured out how to get posts to appear on internet discussion boards, nothing more and nothing less. I don’t think that I even possess a master plan, in the way you suggest. The plan I follow is that I wake up each morning, turn on my computer, handle what is in front of me that day, turn off the computer and go to sleep. I try as hard as I can to understand the other fellow’s point of view and to be kind and polite when doing it. I also try to be firm about honesty on important matters, not to give in to pressures applied to me to get me to say things I don’t believe to be so. That’s the plan, in summary form.

    Following that plan has taken me to some mighty strange places over the past 11 years. I’ve seen amazing things, both positive and negative. I’ve never been under the illusion that I controlled how things turn out. I control one tiny little piece of the world, the posts that show up under the name “Rob Bennett.” That’s all.

    I do believe that God put me here to do this work. He doesn’t speak to me in a direct way. I hear him speaking to me in an indirect way and that’s the message I hear. But I’ve been wrong about that sort of thing before and it could be that it’s happening again. But I personally believe that God put me here to do this work all the same.

    I don’t pray often. But I do on occasion pray for help and courage. I would phrase things the opposite of the way you did. I would say that I need to continue exerting my efforts but that I need to accept that those efforts will not be nearly enough, that I am not going to prevail here without God’s help. I would say that I would be foolish to think that my efforts alone are going to be sufficient.

    Safe withdrawal rates matter, What. I believe that. But I also believe that in the grand scheme of things they may not matter all that much. It could be that in the grand scheme there are things going on here that matter more than the investing topics matter. Thinking along those lines gets a bit too cosmic for me, so I don’t spend much time doing it. But I think that’s a possibility. I certainly think it would be a terrible mistake for me to make safe withdrawal rates so important that I would be unkind to you or one of my other Goon friends. I don’t believe that I have ever ben unkind to any of you and I certainly pray that I never cross that line.

    Enough!

    Take good care, my old friend.

    Rob

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