[The equity markets remain closed today, as America comes to grips with the devastation in New York City's financial district and at the Pentagon in Washington. They will reopen on Monday. Follow this link for more information and ways you can help those in need. The story below originally ran Sept. 27, 1999.]
Today's message is so Foolish that David made it the fifth of the Rule Breaker Portfolio's five principles. In it, David states:
"We manage our portfolio under the normal constraints of our personal and work lives. It may shock you how unimpressively normal this is."
David then explains in the principle how normal this really is. Probably not much different from you, a typical day for David or me doesn't even involve the stock market all that much, and sometimes not at all. Most mornings, I'll check our Breakfast News around 9:00 a.m., and then I won't look at the stock market at least until early afternoon, and that's if I have a column to write and don't have a topic.
Rather than "watching the market," days at the office are frequently spent in meetings and sometimes on the phone with journalists. They're also spent answering e-mail (which can eat several hours a day), having periodic conversations around the office about public companies (very rarely with a focus on short-term moves), reading and posting on the discussion boards, and researching articles. Luckily, we're long-term investors so our stocks are not a daily focus, and shouldn't be.
"What is wrong with you Rule Breaker Fools?" you might ask. Maybe you thought that we were "stock people," living and breathing this market stuff and reporting on it every single day.
Nope. This portfolio is managed under the usual constraints and demands of a normal working life away from it. We are investors writing for investors. Everyone is, or should be, an investor. However, everyone has lives outside of investing, including us. Most peopleshould have other lives -- absorbing other lives. Relatively few of us should or even could watch stocks every day to make a living at "the market." In fact, the fewer people who do this, probably the better off we'll all be -- return-wise and living-wise.
Stocks and the day-by-day
Company stocks rise and fall based on a business's merit in the long run, but on a daily basis the stock market is as random as a roulette wheel. On a daily basis, the stock market rises and falls with reckless abandon. Nobody can predict the market's daily direction, even if the movements occur based on scheduled news events. When you watch the stock market closely every day to see where it's going, you're taking what is -- over the long-term -- a natural progression or regression for a company's stock, and you're turning it into (by watching too closely) something entirely random.
Long-term investors can ignore the market for months at a time. That's Foolish. This is largely how the Rule Breaker operates. As a result, sometimes it is said that we don't talk about our companies enough. I might argue that strong companies don't demand much talking about beyond an introduction and quarterly updates. We enjoy talking about our companies in this column, but we don't always feel the need.
A Fool's priorities
It is unfortunate that in many of the world's societies, work is the number one priority. Often, this is necessary for survival. However, better living for everyone is slowly spreading over the world, and with this improvement in lifestyle comes more choices. The choice to put work first and foremost is one that should perhaps be questioned first.
Many Americans are fortunate enough to have a choice, or are beginning to have a choice: work 60 hours a week, or spend more time with family and friends or on healthy interests outside of work. Given a choice, a Fool would typically pursue the latter. Whether times are good or bad, a Fool puts family and friends first, and still works as if they hadn't. It is in one's mind that one prioritizes, and actions follow the determined mind. If you're determined to have balance and to do exceptional work, too, you can find a way.
As much as I respect the notion of excellent work, I wouldn't say that I put my job first and foremost. It naturally goes after family and friends. As logical as this sounds and whatever people claim in private, this is an unusual practice in America. Stating that family -- or a personal life -- comes first will result in raised eyebrows all down the corporate hallway. This is how The Motley Fool as a company thinks, however, and it is how it actually operates.
Hopefully it shows in our articles. The Fool's writing aims to be well-rounded and to help readers by acknowledging, if only under the surface, that all of you have a full life outside of investing and your work. We do as well. This is partially why we don't focus on the insignificant small events of the day-to-day. (Every other journalistic offering seems to do that.)