The Education Holy Grail

My nineteen-year-old daughter and I did our recreational boat operator’s course together. A day in a classroom and a day on the water. It was the first time I have been in the classroom in a while but I have to say, as a financial professional and a veteran of much financial education, there was something refreshing about dealing with facts for once. What eight items of safety equipment do you have to carry in a boat by law? Name ten ways to signal distress on a boat. What colour is an isolated hazard mark? Facts. If only stock market education was so simple. If only there was a defined path to the Holy Grail, the ability to know which stocks are going up and which stocks are going down, and more importantly, knowing when. That is our quest. It sounds simple, but it isn’t. Instead, like the Knights of the Round Table who set out to find the Grail by proving themselves worthy of it through their endurance, purity and “joyous self abnegation”, we too set out with hope in our hearts, to achieve the stock market equivalent and we too are tested, relentlessly, eternally, and financially. Only three Knights of the Round Table made it to the Grail, out of 150. The modern-day odds of making it rich quick in the stock market are about the same. And to extend the analogy, King Arthur’s Round Table had one chair, the Siège Perilous (Danger-seat), which no-one could occupy except for the true Grail-Knight, the one who would eventually find the Grail. The chair stood empty, and anyone arrogant enough to sit in it, to assume that they had the purity and sinlessness to be worthy of the Grail, would be ‘swallowed up by the Earth’. An appropriate and common fate perhaps for any stock market operator arrogant enough to claim that they too could possess it. Despite this of course there is a massive industry out there selling access to the Holy Grail. But as I sat for two days, for fourteen hours, learning just enough to get me through the thirty very simple multiple-choice questions on my boat operators licence test, it began to dawn on me just how long it really takes to learn anything, especially how to invest or trade in shares, let alone be successful at it. There is just so much to know and it is laughable, although so incredibly tempting, to think that it can be done quickly with your credit card. It is so easy to hoodwink people in this industry. We have compulsory Super, an appetite to “take control” of it, an industry telling you to do so and a population for whom ‘punting’ is associated with the Australian character. There are so many people who have taken on an investment responsibility, have money, have honest intentions and have no idea. Of course there is a market for a solution, in this environment the Holy Grail sells itself. It’s all anyone wants, the ability to make money, and the idea that you can access that knowledge and access it quickly is selling millions of dollars of product. Even the “free seminar” is no more than an opportunity to sell you something more Machiavellian. It is a client acquisition ruse, there’s nothing free about it. The quest for the stock market Grail is a prolonged journey, it cannot be rushed, and because of that, in order to finish it you need to be interested. Without interest you will not make it. So step one on your stock market journey is to ask yourself….”Am I interested?” Do not get your credit card out of you pocket unless you are. The only courses worth going on and the only products worth buying are those that educate and education takes time, a lot of time. We have very slow information input devices…ears and eyes. They are slow, really slow and they cannot be side-stepped. Whatever you buy to educate yourself about the stock market is going to take time. Most products in our space are like an employee that peaks at interview, they focus on the sales pitch, they do whatever they can to ‘close’ you, to make a sale. Just watch the Wolf of Wall Street’s sales technique. It is powerful, but it is selling not delivering. After they have your money, even the worthwhile products noiw leave it up to you, to learn their system, their way, and that takes time. After you have paid your money is when the hard work begins, your hard work, and there is no way around it no matter how much you pay. Nothing for nothing. Education takes effort. There is no fluking the stock market’s Holy Grail. Like the Holy Grail of old, it is not there to be “found”, it is there to be earned, through endurance, purity and “joyous self-abnegation”. It takes years, needs your constant attention and it never ends. Come at the stock market with interest and you may make it. Come at it in a rush, looking for a quick solution, out of necessity, with impatience or just with a credit card and the Earth (and a few sharp operators) will swallow you up.

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