I grew up as a son of West Virginia.
However, early on, my family moved north to a quiet suburb in southeastern Michigan. Yet we visited the hills of West Virginia often. I grew up in ‘both worlds’ you might say. Wherever we lived, we stuck to the suburbs. The suburbs of the 1970’s and 1980’s were a bit more … rural, than they are today.
So as a child of suburbia in the 1980’s; I did as all boys do (at least, they used to) and played in the nearby woods. And as all young boys, I possessed a mischievous streak. By way of example, I still remember to this day … my oldest brother and I … (I couldn’t have been more than seven years old) had this two week bit where we thought it would be great fun to go out into the woods and light fires.
Yes. You heard me right.
Why? God only knows. The best reason I can come up with, is that we were young boys. That’s about all the reason there was. Which is to say that we were pretty stupid. We’d create these elaborate fire ditches, and piles of leaves, and just have fun watching a fire “go”.
So that gives you some idea of the sort of brainless idiotic things I would find to fill my time with as a kid.
Of course, my parents realized what they had on their hands, with my brothers and I. They knew that they had to try to protect us from ourselves. So while they would let us play in the woods, there were some areas that were off limits. Places that didn’t appear safe. Places where three young brainless idiots could do themselves real and serious harm. For instance, near the street on which I lived … we had ‘the woods’. At the edge of ‘the woods’ was an old barn that was falling down, in and on itself. I mean, the barn just screamed “rats and rot“. Obviously, not an area that you want your kids traipsing through. That was an area that I was not supposed to play around. They had no problem with me going to a nearby pond and catching frogs, and tadpoles and all sorts of other creatures. Mom even let me come home with a pet garter snake for a while. But they wanted to keep me safe, so they had this “mean” rule about not playing near an old decrepit barn that was falling in on itself. Go figure eh?
Did I listen?
Of course not.
I ignored them on more than one occasion. I remember one winter, the neighbor kids and I figured out a way to climb up on top of the roof of this barn (I’m surprised the roof didn’t give way beneath us), and we piled up snow on the ground, and we’d jump off of the roof into the snow.
Ah … how little boys decide to spend their time.
Well one day, I think I may have been 12 or 13 years old at the time, some boys from the neighborhood and I decided we would play our games throughout the woods. I can’t even remember what game we were playing. For all I know, we may have been shooting BB’s at each other. But we were running around with a neighbor friend Eric, his younger brother Chad, and I think that our friend Rico may have been present. Regardless, we were running through the woods away from one another. I do remember that much. And of course I’m darting around the area where I’m not supposed to be.
The old barn.
So at one point, I scamper behind that barn as fast as my little feet will carry me. And I remember stepping down, and this wooden plank flying up and slamming into me.
You know, as a rake would fly up and hit you if you were to step onto the concave blades?
I would say this plank of wood was about two feet long and one inch thick, and it hit me right on the thigh. And the most memorable part of this? Is that it didn’t move. It didn’t fall off.
I had a piece of wood? Attached to my leg, from below my hip, to my knee. And it’s not moving. It was like Dan was a “wood magnet”.
Yeah … you guessed it.
As I start to pull the piece of wood off of my leg, I’m starting to feel this massive, stabbing pain. Sure enough, there is a long jagged nail at the end of the piece of wood. By this time, all of my buddies are gathered around me as they hear me yell out in pain. They watch as I proceed to pry this piece of wood off of my leg, and watch the nail extricate itself with (not to gross ya out … but … ) pieces of meat and blood that remained attached to the nail.
So I proceed to hobble off towards home, my buddies following closely behind me, with blood all over my pants. Instead of worrying about the two and a half inch nail that had impaled itself into my leg? I’m worrying about getting caught by Mom for playing where I should not have been playing. Before we even made it out of the woods, I instantly start forming my ‘plan’, so that they won’t find out what I was doing. Because god forbid that my parents find out the truth, and I get into “trouble”.
Because you know …. it’s not serious trouble to have embedded a 3 inch nail into your leg or anything.
I figured out that I’d go home … sneak in through the back door … and head down to the basement. I’d set the washer to ‘cold’ to get rid of the blood stain, and wash the jeans. I’d clean out the wound, patch myself up and be as good as new.
Now as I hobble home, my buddies are helping me out as well as watching in morbid fascination as my jeans become soaked with blood. And they keep telling me …
“Dan, you need to go to the hospital man“
Nahh! I’ll be fine. I can already put a little weight on the leg. It’ll heal up.
“No, Dan, you need to go to the hospital“
I remember my one friend Eric saying over and over again. “Dan, you need to go to the hospital, this is serious. You could have tetanus“
Tetanus? What’s that?
“It’s the rust that gets in your blood, poisons your body, and kills you. It can get to be pretty painful.“
“Yeah, it can kill you man.”
Nahhh, I’ll be fine. I think … Maybe …
What was that about the rust again?
And that conversation went on like that for the ten minutes it took me to get home.
I kept thinking … I’ll just go home, deceive my parents and everything will be ‘ok’. And I did. I got home, and I cleaned myself up. I threw the jeans into the washer, and put a large band-aid on the leg. I “got away” with it. Right? I got away with getting hurt, and no one knowing about it. I got away with playing where I shouldn’t be playing.
I “got away with it”.
But Eric’s words kept on pounding through my mind. And after about a two hour conversation with myself, I decided to approach my mom and tell her what had happened.
It probably saved my life.
Because when we arrived at the doctors and they checked me out, the pain was beginning to hit me like a Mack truck. They quickly discovered that I still had pieces of rust around and inside the wound that I had covered up with the band-aid. Naturally, I got the tetanus shot and my entire body began to stiffen. After a few days the doctors were confident that I was ‘out of the woods’, pardon the pun.
Now I say all of that, to say this.
I learned early on, that honesty … can save your life. I read something the other night that I thought was just beautiful.
“There are few things you will ever find in life that are more valuable than a reputation as an honest, trustworthy person. And think of it – anyone can build such a reputation! It does not depend on your talent, wealth, looks, social background, or any other factor beyond your control. Nonetheless, many fail to acquire the treasure of a good reputation. It is a rarity...”
And what is rare? Is also valuable.
To be a profitable trader? You first of all must be honest with yourself. That’s not to say that honesty is easy. Especially if you are in the space of investing and trading education. Especially when you were celebrating a 22% return, and then start a new service and immediately report you are suffering 11% draw-down.
There is an immediate temptation “not to tell Mom about it”, so to speak.
But as draw-down is a fact of life for any investor from Warren Buffet, to you and I? It’s only by looking at the draw-down honestly, discussing what to do, and how to do it, will anyone ever learn how to trade profitably.
Dishonesty and deception is a temptation to begin with, because it may seem as if there are immediate, gratifying, positive or profitable results for ‘skirting by’ the truth. It’s a way to try to avoid pain.
Especially is this true, in an industry that is rife with crooks and scammers. I watched a special yesterday on Lou Pearlman. Wow. It’s incredible the hard work and lengths that people will go to, in order to dishonestly scam people out of their money!
We also live in a world, where it is increasingly common for people to think that they are living honestly, but deceitfully try to paint themselves in a more positive light than what all of the facts would truly reveal. While I want to protect my privacy, the ‘deceptive mindset’ rampant in the world today is one reason why I’ve tried to be very honest about how I got started in the markets, and how long my ‘learning curve’ actually was. How my life blew up in Mexico in my volunteer efforts. How I worked at rebuilding everything.
And to be sure, for some time short sighted guys like Lou Pearlman and Bernard Madeoff live very, very well for a time.
But dishonesty is always a losers game in the long run.
When the nail of draw-down hits you in the leg? Admit it to yourself, get defensive, and take your medicine so as to go on to greater profits.