Fribble Tuesday, January 25, 2000

Salvaging a Misspent Youth

By idxbuster (ropaul@execpc.com)

When I was a kid, I was told that if I was willing to work hard enough, to pay the price, that I could succeed at absolutely anything. With this most American of creeds as my inspiration, I hunkered down to pursue my dream career -- wide receiver in the National Football League.

It never even occurred to me that I might not make it in the NFL, so completely had I swallowed the myth. When I was not allowed to even try out for my high school football team because the coaches feared that my scrawny frame would be broken in half like a dry twig, I relented a little and admitted even to myself that, indeed, the odds were long. Ever the warrior, though, I refused to abandon my NFL training regimen completely. To appease the cynics in my life (and in my head), I just added a backup career option -- National Basketball Association, shooting guard.

Finally, in my early thirties, still a stranger to the formal gridiron and a marginal player in my office basketball league, I was able to let go. I was able to finally speak aloud the words that had long held sway in my weaker, traitorous, subconscious mind: I'm not going to make it in the NFL. With this final act of acceptance, the long-crumbling dam gave way. A torrent of rage poured forth and innocence was forever purged.

In this moment of rage, I made a promise to myself: from this point forward, I will always pick up the business section of the Sunday paper before the sports page. Just think of what I could accomplish, I told myself, if I were to dedicate to the world of business and finance all the brain cells currently occupied by (suddenly) useless sports strategies and statistics?

Initially, I decided, I would allow success to depend on the force of my will. After all, one can't overcome a lifetime of bad habits overnight. For the long term, however, I dreamed of a day when I would actually prefer to reach for the business news first -- even on my weakest Sunday morning.

With this fateful U-turn now a distant signpost in my rearview mirror, I've made great strides in my business self-education. Today, I'm bold enough to even call myself an investor and more folks in the office ask me for my stock market opinions than my for my Super Bowl prediction. Of course, one question remains, and it is a question of character. Have I kept my promise to myself? Have I always chosen the business section first?

Alas, not completely. But, of course, I have excuses. I blame my wife and The Motley Fool, in that order. You see I happened to marry a sports fan (what a coincidence!) and together we've taught our toddlers to yell "Go Baby!" whenever a Packer breaks into the open field. So I can now justify the Sunday Packer games as "family time." What is more important than family time, right?

And that darn Motley Fool has taught me that it doesn't pay to obsess over the weekly stock market price noise anyway. Focus instead on business plans and the comparatively glacial pace of more fundamental business measures. So, no hurry to digest the weekly numbers. Heck, if the Packers are on TV, I might even skip a week! Now where's that remote....

Hard to figure how I failed to make it in the NFL, eh?