Montaigne made this observation over 500 years ago, but it still resonates with us today. Life undulates, rising and falling forever like the swells of the ocean throughout every aspect of our existence. We only need a brief look back to see the evidence that this is true. Yet we haven’t fully incorporated our awareness of this undulation, which is a constant source of frustration for man in general. Since when we rise and things go our way, we find it natural. On the other hand, we are full of surprise, scandal and incredulity when they don’t.
It’s merely human nature to flee from effort and pain but to desire the virtues, yet not the sacrifice it takes to earn them. We call ourselves patient, yet we cry out in protest and retreat whenever our patience faces a grilling. While we consider ourselves to be long-term investors, unforeseen short-term events affect us deeply, rendering us brimming with worries and hurries. We may think that we differ from the pack with our independent and sustained criteria, but we fall into the quagmire of doubt in times of setback just like everyone else.
Man and his convictions are only put to the test in adversity, when things don’t go as planned. Exclusively in times of struggle and strife. Value investors are tested with the agony of feeling like the laggard for not following trends or fads; the struggle of going against the grain; and the pain of appearing to have made the wrong decision in the short term. Investors cannot call themselves value investors until they have weathered such an objectively painful situation and discovered, with a calm yet pleasant surprise, that their initial convictions held firm and prevailed.
The right time to draw conclusions will be in January 2022
Keeping a cool head is much easier than it appears. Just being consistent is enough. In other words: simply being who we say we are. If we are patient investors driven by the convictions of our long-term ideas and horizons, we should act accordingly. It just takes resolve to do so: beyond daily settlement figures, quarterly commentaries and annual conferences, we assess our balance as stakeholders once every five years. This, and nothing less, is the minimum time we can consider to be the long term.
Until then, we place our trust into our fund managers, so we can fully experience the ebb and flow of all the aspects in our undulating personal lives. The right time to draw consistent and justified conclusions all together will be in January 2022. Until then, we are who we say we are. Let’s let time work for our investments so we can enjoy the miracle of today.