Writing about patience on Friday, David G. suggested attempting to not look at your stocks for the month of August. I'm following his suggestion and assuming that by not looking at stocks for a month, I should try not to look at the companies that I own, either.
First, if you own companies for valid long-term reasons, a mere month will almost never change those reasons. Second, I'll not look at news from my companies because it would be difficult to follow their news without also seeing stock prices. Third, and most important, I like the idea of the exercise. Overall, I'm comfortable enough with what I own that I can leave my watchful perch for the month of August without concern. (Goodbye, perch.)
This means that my next four Breaker columns should not talk about stock prices -- not hard, as we rarely do that anyway -- and they should not discuss, for the sake of this exercise, our companies. That leaves us free to discuss other Rule Breaker companies, but with a hot, slow August staring us down, the potential for finding interesting new companies to discuss is slim, especially if we're relying on me.
So, what does that leave for us to discuss? Breaking Rules. We won't just talk about Breaking Rules when investing, though, but -- as the Rule Breaker spirit is meant to encompass -- breaking them in LIFE, too; that is today's topic. (Here's your chance to leave right now: If you're only interested in learning about investing and money issues today, consider the Fool's new Crash Courses.)
Breaking your own unwritten Rules
In order to best understand and "catch" a Rule Breaker stock, you must think like a Rule Breaker, act like a Rule Breaker, look like a Rule Breaker, live like a Rule Breaker, and, in the end, be a Rule Breaker. (For fans of Caddyshack, this isn't much different from trying to catch a gopher.)
So, how can you live more like a Rule Breaker each day?
Don't break the rules by smashing your neighbor's window, stealing his stereo, and selling it on eBay, as a completely random example. Don't break the rules by speeding, either. Finally, don't break the rules by going on a credit card spending spree when you can't afford it -- that's a "Faker Breaker" move and it could bankrupt you.
No, we're talking about breaking the rules in legal and even admirable ways -- in ways that will make your life more fun, less predictable, and more Foolish. Here's one step to leading a more Breaker-esque lifestyle:
Step 1) Randomize your decisions
I learned this Breaker-esque attribute from David Gardner a few years ago; it's an excellent technique for breaking the rules of what's expected in daily life. The concept is easy, yet powerful: When you have a decision to make and your available options are similarly compelling, make the decision randomly -- that is, randomize it! All you need is a standard coin with heads and tails. You declare each side as one of your options, flip the coin in the air, and your choice is made in less than two seconds.
You MAY NOT go back on the decision of the coin. The coin is all-powerful. If you don't follow it, you will only feel small and weak anyway (breaking your own promise), so do yourself a favor -- follow the coin.
You think I've lost my mind right now, writing this, don't you? But you just need to randomize with zest to understand its power.
A recent, conservative example: Last night my younger brother and I couldn't decide between a round of twilight golf or dinner in Chicago. Our decision-making became tense. I suddenly proffered a silver quarter. My brother smiled, remembering the "Randomizer" and knowing that we no longer had any problems at all. Heads came up. We went golfing at 7 p.m., just as dusk began to descend on the rolling green golf course. We managed a fun eight holes as the sky turned dark red. Behind one tee stood an enormous barn owl on a low tree limb just five feet away, watching us.
After golf it was either order pizza at home or a late dinner out in Chicago. Flip. It came up pizza. The night was stress-free and atypically planned, with decisions made for us by the mighty quarter. We were happy. We felt that we were, in a small yet meaningful way, Breaking some of the expected Rules.
Now, we don't recommend that you randomize decisions like whether or not to marry, or whether to have children, or whether to hang yourself tonight, for example. Those important life decisions should not be left to a coin, nor should investing decisions. Do try randomizing fun choices such as where to have dinner, and what to eat from the menu, though. In fact, next time that you're planning a night out with someone, perhaps your significant other, randomize your activities and let us know how it went.
(Warning! Some people are less willing to randomize events. You might meet resistance when you try to randomize between things like a fine Italian restaurant or a hot dog stand, for example. But having widely different options is part of the fun. Do realize that some people are entirely, always against randomizing. They're not bad people, they just don't have a free spirit.)
Lately, I've pondered randomizing on a grander scale, given all the possibilities. Consider this one: I could put up a dart board and attach paper cut-outs of five different countries that I would like to live in, throw a dart, and leave for the country chosen by the dart with a required six-month stay. How would this improve my investing skills? Wherever I visited, I would learn something about its economy, more about various businesses, and more about the world in general. I've also found that I usually have a better perspective on American business when well outside the country, watching from afar. I was, after all, residing in France in June 1999 when I wrote that most all "hot" Internet stocks at the time would end up destitute. Were I in the middle of the United States at that time, would I have had that perspective? Not likely.
Perhaps Breaking the expected Rules in life is best for that: It can give you new perspectives, and remind you that not everything has to be, or should be, decided on and done in the way that it has been done in the past. Only by experimenting with new changes in life do we find ways to improve, and do we find new enjoyments.
More steps next time, including perhaps -- perhaps -- some relating to money. Fool on!
Jeff Fischer wants you to know that Brian Lund frequently randomizes plans and small decisions, too. Do you? Well, try it. The Motley Fool has a full disclosure policy.