[Editor’s note: one more post rescued from the e-trash bin. I wrote this almost 3 years ago. How true it rings, even now. And still incomplete.]
For a blogger on the internet I suppose this is a good “problem” to have– I’ve received a lot of emails lately from people who follow my blog (strangers and acquaintances alike) asking me if I’ve given up blogging and noting that my last post was in November, about two months ago.
I was planning to write a little something along the lines of a response to “Where the hell have you been?” anyway, but there’s a bit more urgency now as more and more keep chiming in with sounds of confusion and dismay. Yes, I am a unique product in apparently high demand.
To start, I wanted to offer three general excuses for why in the recent past, or any other time in the distant past or future, my blogging output may have been/may be inconsistent to nonexistent:
- Lack of enthusiasm, inspiration or both
- Short-term priorities and time-use choices which interfere with contemporaneous blogging
- Long-term priorities, etc…
With regards to the first item, I’ll give a little bit of a background on myself that might serve to establish some contrast in illustrating the point. When I was a younger man, I blogged quite often on personal issues, sometimes two, three, four times a day (or night). I felt I had no end to my desire to share my thoughts, and an almost endless variety of subjects upon which I saw fit to opine.
I consider myself a thoughtful person (meaning full of thoughts, not necessarily beneficially so) and certainly I can’t deny being opinionated (in the sense of deriving great satisfaction from expressing my views, not simply in possessing them or strongly defending them). Combine this with a youthful experience with general alienation from my peers because I did not understand them and they didn’t understand me and I had no one to talk to out there but myself. I blogged a lot seeking release. I blogged a lot to practice thinking and reasoning. I blogged a lot because I found my former self — one week, one month, one year earlier — endlessly entertaining.
As I grew older, but not necessarily wiser or more mature, I came to realize I wasn’t as alone as I always thought I was. I found the virtue of patience and adherence to particular standards and eventually came to understand how to find and connect with the kind of people that got me (and vice versa) in the great sea of global society. I started seeing the impropriety of sharing my thoughts on everything that crossed my mind with anyone who crossed my path. I settled down a bit, too. I blogged less. In other words, as everyone else began entering the Facebook Era of 24/7 trivialization, I had finally found a pair of running shoes that fit and was in the process of hauling ass in the opposite direction.
But it is a process, not a destination, and sometimes I stumble. I can’t claim to be without flaws in my execution of this process, only that I am committed to always trying to improve it. So, if anything I’ve written here has come across as not quite sacrosanct in accordance with these principles, I make no apology.
And in conclusion, I try to police myself as best I can in this regard and that’s why many things I would publish to the blog in fact go still born. Oftentimes I experience a disconnect somewhere between the “I should write about this” thought and the “Publish” button which results in sufficient disillusionment with the value of the whole ordeal that I end up throwing my hands up in the air, shouting something along the lines of “Oh, who gives a shit? I know I don’t!” and then giving up.
I was born with a savior mentality but I’ve slowly purged myself of that. When it momentarily gets the better of me the result is usually an aborted blog post when I catch myself and realize I don’t want to live the life of a crusader and I’m not about to try to change the world with a blog post. Better just to record some observations as I have them, keep myself honest as best I can and shuffle along.
As far as short-term priorities go, my personal circumstances regarding family, friends and relationships over the Thanksgiving-New Year’s holidayfest period left me singularly unable to tend to any personal pleasures and upkeep, which included this blog. This excuse isn’t much more detailed or interesting than this fact. I let a lot of things go by the wayside with the limited free time I perceived myself to possess during this time and the blog got heaped in the pile.
The final excuse, regarding long-term priorities, is perhaps the bone with the most consequential meat on it and so if you’ve read this far I encourage you to nibble and see how you like it.
Right around the beginning of January, 2012, a personal friend whose company and judgment I value immensely sent me an e-mail encouraging me to visit the blog CS Investing. Were it anyone else, I probably would’ve taken a look, briefly, weeks later, if that. But because I respect this person I decided to take his recommendation seriously and I visited the site immediately.
The timing on this was nothing short of fortuitous. I happened to be taking a brief respite from anything resembling adulthood responsibility for a period of three weeks, visiting a friend on the other side of the country and prepared to spend most of my days busying myself with reading and web browsing and cooking. I was at a place in my life where I was nearly perfectly situated to let the message of this blog resonate within me in a profound way.
The message of CS Investing was, on the surface, taking a case study-based methodological approach to studying the principles of value investing. The tone of the site was collegial and ancient academy-like: the students gathered around the teacher to receive a lesson, but in the context of all discussing, debating and learning (versus the standard model today of authority-to-servant). The resources were vast and high quality.
But the thing that hit me the most was the attitude of individual self-improvement and growth, of which I had already been a fan. John Chew, the proprietor of the site, made it clear that one could have an intense education in business and investing without going to business school and that maybe even this choice was antithetical to the stated aims! A bold claim that people with and without MBAs seem to fall on either side of, but one which sparked my imagination regardless of the consensus surrounding it.
My best personal friend was himself engaged in an intensive experiment he called his “personal MBA in entrepreneurial farming” in which he had committed to learning what it took to create a small-scale organic, local farming enterprise from scratch. Using his efforts and organization as a model, and considering CSInvesting.org as my primary resource, I decided to commit myself to a year-long “personal MBA in investing and business analysis”. My plan was to follow the case study methodology as well as read and digest as many authoritative texts, articles, interviews, etc., as I could on the subject of value investing, financial analysis and business management in the space of a year.
This decision took me in a number of directions over the course of the year that I could not and did not predict before I made the commitment.
One result of my commitment was the making of a lot of social connections with other talented, intelligent value investors and business thinkers who I originally came across through their blogs. I’ve mentioned a number of them at various times on this blog but I’ll list some of my favorites just in case, though this list is by no means exhaustive or comprehensive:
These relationships have been invaluable in a number of ways. I have learned a lot from these people, many who have mentored me a bit at times which I always enjoy even if such relationships remain informal and ad hoc. They have inspired me in various ways, helping me to tease out ideas buried deep in my mind and psyche, or giving me entirely original motivations. Some have become partners in activism on various investment ideas while others have explored more formal business partnerships with me. All lent me encouragement and support through various crises of thought and existence, minor and major, along the way.