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Not Going To Get Sappy

This is supposed to be one of those sappy posts that talks about all I’m grateful for in 2019: a year that marked the start of this firm and a great year in the markets.

I’m not going to do that though…I’m going to tell you why I’m grateful for something utterly inane that has taught me all I need to know about investing: the game of golf.
 

Growing up, I played my fair share of golf. I eventually went on to become a shockingly mediocre (read: not very good) college golfer and now can say I have morphed into a shockingly mediocre amateur golfer.  I love golf because of the lessons it teaches and what the game has given me.  It’s taught me how to be patient, humble, and kind.  It’s given me great friends, experiences, and travels.  The greatest gift that golf has given me, however, is time with my dad (stay with me here...).

Some kids grow up idolizing athletes or rock stars but I grew up idolizing my father. He is the kindest, most encouraging, and selfless man I’ve ever known. He has been the rock of our family through incredible highs and mind-numbingly difficult lows. Through great success and trying failure, sickness and health, the greatest good times and some of the worst bad ones, my father has been an unwavering force for good. For the past 40+ years, he has reliably put my interests ahead of his own; I genuinely can’t remember a time that I needed something and my dad wasn’t there to provide it.

Through this wonderful life that he has built, perhaps his most important job was acting as my caddie at junior golf tournaments across the country. Our routine was the same each time: fly to the location of the event, play a practice round, play the tournament, go experience something cool in the city we were visiting, and then go home. Along the way, I would inevitably encounter some sort of adversity on the course…a missed short putt, a lost ball, or a wayward tee shot into a water hazard. My dad’s reaction was the same every time: overwhelming, almost alarming calm.

The man is a veritable quote machine and would start in on me with that reassuring voice of his:

 
“Be quick but don’t hurry”

“Take a minute to smell the roses”

“Don’t forget…one bad chapter doesn’t make a bad book.  Turn the page.”



Each time, I would respond the same way that any teenager would…with willful and petulant ignorance towards anything he said.

Looking back on it though, that all changed in September 1998. The setting was a junior golf event in Sacramento, CA and I had played well the first day of the event. On day two, we came to the 15th hole, a par 5 with a large creek cutting across the fairway. I hit my tee shot and as soon as I picked up my tee up out of the ground, a torrential downpour started, seemingly out of nowhere. I immediately panicked, realizing that I had failed to bring any sort of rain gear to shield me from the gobs of water that were now soaking every inch of my clothing. And just like that, my dad reached into the bag and pulled out my rain gear that he had packed away for me; I quickly put on the rain suit and trudged down the fairway.

My second shot would have to traverse the aforementioned creek. “Hit the 3 iron back over the water?”, I said to my dad. “No. Hit 7 iron short of the water. No need to tempt fate. You can still make par and move on with a good score here even if you lay up short of the water”, he responded.

And with that, out came my 3 iron…and a shot that went immediately into the water.

As we approached the creek, I could see a ball floating just on the edge of it in some very shallow water. “I’m going to try to hit it out of the water”, I remarked to my dad. “Nope, take your drop back behind the water and move on. Don’t compound your mistake”, he said.

And with that, I grabbed my club and waded into the seemingly shallow water, took a mighty whack at my ball, and moved it about 30 yards on down the fairway. In the process of finishing the shot, I stumbled backwards and landed in some deep mud, waterlogging both of my shoes in the process.

Now, I’m really panicked. It’s raining like you can’t believe, I don’t have working shoes, and I’m about to blow myself out of the golf tournament.

Here he comes again with that voice:

“Be quick but don’t hurry”

“Take a minute to smell the roses”

“Don’t forget…one bad chapter doesn’t make a bad book.  Turn the page.”


And with that, he laid a towel down on the ground, removed his shoes and gave them to me. Off we went, rambling down the fairway, Dad barefoot and me walking in a pair of New Balances that were a half size too big for me.

We got to my ball…

“Dad?”

“Yea?”

“That wasn’t my ball. I think I hit the wrong one.”
 

With that, we looked 30 yards back at the creek to see another ball (my ball!) floating in the middle of the creek.

This is the point in the story where he’s supposed to get mad at me for not listening to him, causing him to walk barefoot in the rain, and all for the wrong ball…but he didn’t.

“OK.  Let’s go back and take a drop”, he said in that voice.

And with that, it started again:

“Be quick but don’t hurry”

“Take a minute to smell the roses”

“Don’t forget…one bad chapter doesn’t make a bad book. Turn the page.”
 

 
Everything I need to know about investing I learned from my dad on that fateful day in 1998:

Bring your raingear:  always be prepared and know that the unexpected will eventually happen.

Don’t be a hero:  it’s ok to take the more conservative route if that means that you will be better off on a risk-adjusted basis.
 
Take your medicine:  
when you make a mistake, don’t compound it with another one.

Stay calm:  when you’re stuck barefoot in the rain, just move on.

So this year I am definitely grateful for the game that has given me so much and even introduced me to some of you.

But mostly I am just grateful that there are people like this guy in the world...

And with that, I send you best wishes for a healthy and prosperous 2020.