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.