Tuesday, February 03, 1998

The Duck, Duck, Goose Fribble
by Selena Maranjian (

I recently was sent an intriguing article as fodder for a Fribble. It offered facts about geese and also drew lessons from them. Truth be told, though, it was sort of already a Fribble. Observations had been made about the world around us, with meaning drawn and applied to our lives. Very Foolish. But... no parallels were drawn to investing.

So let me swing at this softball lobbed my way and we'll see what Foolish truths we can uncover amid all the flapping and honking. Note that the facts (numbered one through five) and the lessons are not mine. I tracked down the source of the material to a site on the Outward Bound website and to someone named Angeles Arrien.

FACT 1: As each goose flaps its wings it creates an "uplift" for the birds that follow. By flying in a "V" formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.

LESSON 1: People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

FOOLISH APPLICATION 1: Can this possibly be more Foolish? I think not. Here within these motley walls, we share ideas and opinions on various companies and investment approaches and challenge each other to think harder and to learn. While one person on her own can learn to be an effective investor, she can probably do so much faster by being a participant in Fooldom. Perhaps we can even help her achieve her goal in 71% less time!

FACT 2: When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.

LESSON 2: If we have as much sense as a goose we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.

FOOLISH APPLICATION 2: Ditto for Fools. We might drop out of cyberspace for a bit, and begin relying on the Wise financial press for our investing fix. But we'll soon feel the drag of flying alone. We'll wonder, "Hmm... Do other investors think as highly of this company as this prognosticator does?" With proper goose-sense, we'll get back information.

FACT 3: When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position.

LESSON 3: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. As with geese, people are interdependent on each other's skills, capabilities and unique arrangements of gifts, talents or resources.

FOOLISH APPLICATION 3: This lesson has proven true not only in the skies above us, but also at Fool HQ. We're constantly reminded that it isn't right for the same person or people to keep cleaning the kitchen. That we should all take turns facing the crud in the microwave and the stink in the fridge. The principle also holds true for Fooldom in general. Don't depend solely on yourself to do all the research on a company manually. Let cyberspace help you. Use the Fool Search function available at our AOL site and website. Instantly get historical and financial snapshots and see what Fools have written about the firm. Get full financial reports through Edgar. Take the idea to the extreme, and form an investment club, where researching work can be divided and shared among many. (Stay tuned -- we'll soon be offering information on how to start and run investment clubs.)

FACT 4: The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

LESSON 4: We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement, the production is much greater. The power of encouragement (to stand by one's heart or core values and encourage the heart and core of other) is the quality of honking we seek.

FOOLISH APPLICATION 4: Take a spin through our message boars. Unfortunately, you'll probably run across some obnoxious honking. It's Fool vs. Fool, where you'll read posts honking, "You're probably short this stock, right, bozo? I've never read such tripe before in my life!" This is not encouraging honking. We hope that any reader faced with such a post will first duck, and then ignore it. Or better yet, when appropriate, offer constructive honking. Perhaps something like, "Dear StockStud9, while your news that, 'This stock is going down!!!!!' is intriguing, you could make your case more effectively by supplying the source of your information and also demonstrating how you reached your conclusions." Focus on quality honking, fellow Fools.

FACT 5: When a goose gets sick, wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. Then, they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.

LESSON 5: If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.

FOOLISH APPLICATION 5: Not only should we Fools stand by each other in down times, we already do. Witness the many times some stock or other has crashed. Rather than seeing widespread laughing or snickering about the implosion, we've often seen careful analysis of what happened and encouraging words for those who are set to hold through the downturn. A more powerful example of this kind of mutual support likely lies ahead of us, in the form of a major market crash. That's right. In the long run, the stock market rises. But it never does so relentlessly. There are bumps and lurches, some of which can be sizable and prolonged. At such a time, expect to find a lot of commiserating in Fooldom. While the news media may focus on the stressed out sorts on Wall Street, Fool Street will be a good place to get a more healthy perspective.

Thus endeth our geese primer. Lest I leave you thinking that this is all that we can learn from birds, let me point you to a previous Fribble of mine on Pterodactyl Wings, and also to the following quotation from G. K. Chesterton:

A turkey is more occult and awful than all the angels and archangels.
In so far as God has partly revealed to us an angelic world,
he has partly told us what an angel means.
But God has never told us what a turkey means.
And if you go and stare at a live turkey for an hour or two,
you will find by the end of it that the enigma has rather increased than diminished.

G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936), All Things Considered, "Christmas" (1908).

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